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County Commissioners: A thank-you to volunteers, so vital to success of Rec and Parks

Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks delivers an essential service as an integral component of local community infrastructure; this, in turn, improves the local economy, conserves natural environments and open spaces and strengthens the community by improving the quality of life for Carroll County residents. Volunteers play a vital role in the success of recreation programs and the park system in the county. Such programs and our parks would not be the assets they are without the integral role and dedication of volunteers.

Volunteers are critical to the success of recreation programs in the county, accomplishing a more robust recreation system with significant cost savings. Volunteer recreation councils collect approximately $5 million annually through registration fees, fundraisers and team sponsorships for the intended purpose of providing programming. Often, programs cost more to operate than the charged fee and fundraisers and sponsorships typically make up the difference. Any funds remaining at the conclusion of the season are used to replace equipment or improve facilities.

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Carroll County relies heavily on volunteers, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year. Over 8,000 volunteers provide more than 429,000 hours of service to the community. Overall, volunteer recreation council efforts result in a community contribution valued at $15.2 million annually ($10 million in labor and $5.2 million in registration, fundraising and sponsorships), effectively leveraging budgeted county funds at a rate of $5.40 for every single county dollar spent. In comparison, by using volunteers, Carroll County operates with 27 full-time staff compared to other nearby county recreation and parks departments with as many as 230 full-time staff. While neighboring counties may use paid staff to line ballfields and provide onsite coverage of activities, those tasks are completed by volunteers in Carroll, again saving taxpayers money.

In 2018, revenue producing parks in Carroll County collectively recouped nearly 70% of their operating costs through the generation of on-site revenue. This is far above the national agency cost recovery average of 27.3% quoted in the 2019 Agency Review by the National Recreation & Parks Association. In short, for every dollar spent to operate a site like Piney Run Park, 70 cents were returned in revenue, reducing the impact on taxpayers. Park fees are reviewed every 3 years with adjustments made as necessary to ensure that these sites continue to recoup the majority of their budget with fees. Additional county revenue is generated from park-related tourism, increased property values near parks, and greater economic activity including job generation. In addition, a strong recreation and parks program can produce a critical economic development and residential attraction effect. These parks were not established nor intended to cover all operating costs, but the value to the community is clear. Over time, multiple boards of county commissioners supported this philosophy because they understood all of the benefits and economic value of parks.

Twenty-three other county parks have no entrance or usage fee, allowing residents to freely visit and enjoy a variety of activities. Visitors play on playgrounds, walk on trails, appreciate nature and enjoy open space. These sites also serve as a home for many recreation council activities. Parks provide recreational opportunities for improved health and wellness of the community, and provide vital green space and wildlife habitats while enriching the lives of residents and encouraging the vitality of our neighborhoods.

Over the years, multiple boards of county commissioners have reaffirmed their belief in the value of county parks, recreation council volunteers and the Department of Recreation and Parks, because they understand the return on investment to the community. The current 61st Board of County Commissioners thanks all volunteers and the staff supporting those volunteer efforts whose hard work contributes invaluably to the success of our county.

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