In response to declining budgets and personnel levels, Ohio State Parks adopted a regionalized approach to the management and operation of its state parks. Ohio has 74 state parks in 60 of its 88 counties. In the mid 1990’s, a manager and full time staff could be found at each state park with few exceptions. Then budget shortfalls resulted in a severe reduction of staffing levels. Over a several year period, the Ohio State Parks FTP workforce was reduced from 850 to 450.
In the late 1990’s, parks were grouped together to form regions. Initially, the designated regional park manager did not have line authority. However, it was added later. A total of 26 regions were formed which included a minimum of two parks per region and up to five in one. On average there are 2-3 parks per region. Just as no two parks are alike, staffing levels/manpower needs are not alike in any of the regions. Some regions have some type of management or staff person stationed at each park. However, most regions operate at least one park in what we term a satellite park which has no person stationed full time. Manpower and resources are deployed from the regional park on as needed basis. The satellite parks tend to be small in nature with no overnight facilities (there are exceptions). Ohio State Parks Regional Map (pdf)
As one can imagine, this process have been dynamic with each of the regions developing into a cohesive unit at a different pace. Direction from the Chief’s office to help with this has and still is given to help with this process. A couple of examples are included:
It has been our experience that regionalization works best when people at all levels are involved in helping to shape the direction of the services offered in the region with an eye always on the customer. Below is an example of how one region operates under this concept.
We ( Portage Lakes region) promote teamwork by letting employees have a voice in day-to-day and long term operations. Quarterly, all staff within a region attends a regional meeting. They are informed of all current information, asked for input on various topics, and free to discuss any topic of their choosing. After which employees are divided into smaller groups where they develop ideas on how to better work together, improve customer service, and make their jobs more enjoyable.
As it becomes necessary to complete larger projects “Blitz Day” projects are scheduled. “Blitz Day” projects are larger projects that every staff member within the region is invited to participate in. This invitation crosses job classes and union boundaries. It creates an atmosphere that everyone is on the same team. “Blitz Day” makes it possible to complete tasks that otherwise would have to be contracted out. It is usually accompanied with the local manager cooking lunch or providing a break-time snack.
Work classes within a park have become Regional task thinkers. Park Officers patrol several parks instead of just one. They are free to roam the Region and work in the facility where the need is the greatest. Clerical staffs do administrative work for each other, cover for each other while on vacations, and with call forwarding are able to relay calls if they are busy with a task. Our maintenance employees work at every facility within the region. Management employees are crossed trained; they can operate all facilities within their region.
Other examples of how regionalization occurs in practice include:
- Cooperating on ordering of supplies & materials
- Equipment sharing
- Regionalization of public programs and special events allows us to offer a wider range of activities on a more regular basis. This leads to referrals to other parks and increased visitation.
- Safety and other training conducted keeps all on same page
The regional team approach has enabled us to do more with less staff, improve customer service, increase revenues, improve morale, and make our work place an enjoyable place to spend eight to ten hours of our day. This system has many benefits, but requires commitment and mutual respect from all staff at each park. Management commitment must be strong amongst the supervisors in the region for this to succeed.
Jon Dobney, Northern Regional Administrator, 937-393-4284 email@example.com
Glen Cobb, Field Support Group Manager, 614-265-6507 firstname.lastname@example.org