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The path forward for parks and recreation in Cleveland is captured within the following goals and actions.

Each goal describes an ideal future for the parks and recreation system and is supported by a set of actions that the City can take to move towards that ideal future.

Four policy themes were identified from engagement:

Responsible Stewardship

Accessible Facilities

Engaging Experiences


Responsible Stewardship

Ensure parks and recreation facilities are operated and maintained effectively and to defined standards.

Clevelanders are concerned that parks and recreation facilities are not being adequately maintained and updated. Half of survey respondents identified this as the top reason for not visiting parks and recreation centers more often, and 38% noted ‘poor or uncomfortable atmosphere’ as a major barrier. People noted issues around trash collection and mowing, upkeep of existing equipment and facilities, and investments to older and dated facilities.


1.1. Define clear maintenance standards that will be consistently met.
1.2. Make procurement and contracting processes clearer and more transparent.
1.3. Strengthen sustainability policies and practices.

Enhance the fiscal sustainability of Cleveland’s parks and recreation facilities.

While the offices, departments and divisions responsible for delivering parks and recreation services have stretched operational budgets to maintain existing parks, recreation facilities, and other city infrastructure, additional capital and operational funding is needed to ensure all parks and recreation facilities continue to provide the level of experience that residents seek.


2.1. Secure funding to support development, maintenance, and programming of parks and recreation facilities and ensure those public funds are efficiently and effectively spent.
2.2. Account for both up-front and ongoing costs and benefits in maintenance and capital budgeting.
2.3. Identify and pursue public-private, nonprofit, and philanthropic partnerships to support capital improvements and programs.
2.4. Identify revenue-generating opportunities from parks, recreation facilities, and programs that can be reinvested back into these assets.
2.5. Track and report revenues and direct and indirect costs with the Parks and Recreation Department’s services.

Build and strengthen partnerships to leverage resources for mutual benefit.

Clevelanders benefit from having access to amenities provided by the City and other entities, including Cleveland Metroparks and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. In an era of limited resources, partnerships can help deliver more efficient and effective services. By strengthening existing partnerships and identifying new partners, the City can leverage its resources to make limited funding stretch further. In addition, community and other organizations have expressed interest in developing collaborative partnerships with the City. There is energy to establish “Friends of” groups and to leverage community volunteerism, but navigating the City’s organizational structure and processes is currently difficult.


3.1. Establish partnerships between the new Parks and Recreation Department and other City departments.
3.2. Formalize and strengthen partnerships with other major providers of parks, recreation facilities, programs, and community services in Cleveland and the greater Cleveland area.
3.3. Create and regularly revise partnership policies and agreements to ensure fair and equitable relationships.
3.4. Cultivate long-term relationships with community members, leaders, and community and cultural organizations to help enhance parks and recreation facilities and programs.

Accessible Facilities

Ensure equitable access to quality parks and recreation facilities.

Clevelanders aspire to have a well-connected park and recreation system with biking and walking trails that make traveling to facilities safe. Paved, multi-use trails were most frequently cited as the most important outdoor facilities, selected by 41% of respondents.


4.1. Utilize this plan’s level of service standards as a planning tool to manage public space assets equitably and efficiently and provide a high quality of service.
4.2. Make efficient use of land resources and facilities through system-wide planning and investments.
4.3. Create safe routes to parks and recreation facilities.
4.4. Embed accessibility and universal access as a fundamental aspect of parks and recreation facilities, programs, and services.

Improve users ability to quickly find park and recreation facilities and programs.

Many Clevelanders are unaware of the full range of services, programs, and amenities offered by the City. In the survey, 40% of respondents identified not knowing where to go for programs or what is offered as a major barrier to visiting parks and recreation centers more often. People noted a desire to be able to search and register for programs online.


5.1. Promote City parks and recreation facilities as part of a unified regional system.
5.2. Create a legible brand identity for City parks and recreation facilities.
5.3. Develop a communications and marketing plan that increases awareness of parks, recreation facilities, programs, and other department services.
5.4. Provide a single source to learn about programs and services, register for programs and make facility reservations.
5.5. Gather input from residents on a recurring basis.

Continue to enhance safety and security in all parks and recreation facilities through multiple models of community safety and harm reduction.

Residents want to feel safe in parks and at recreation facilities, and they want to feel safe getting to those facilities. Over a third (37%) of survey respondents said they did not visit parks and recreation centers more often due to a lack of visible patrolling presence. Other residents cited a general lack of lighting and other preventative security as barriers to usage.


6.1. Support a visible community presence in parks and recreation facilities.
6.2. Work with law enforcement on a coordinated approach to preventive and reactive safety and security in parks and at recreation facilities.
6.3. Incorporate ‘Crime Prevention through Environmental Design’ (CPTED) principles into design standards.

Engaging Experiences

Provide equitable access to quality recreational experiences.

Clevelanders love and appreciate the City’s free programming. The 57% who participated in recreation programs in the previous year rated program quality as excellent or good. There is a desire for more diverse, multigenerational, community-focused programming in parks and recreation facilities. Close to a third of survey respondents said they do not participate because their desired facility/program is not offered.


7.1. Expand year-round usability of existing recreation facilities.
7.2. Ensure indoor and outdoor facilities and programs continue to respond to changing user needs.
7.3. Promote public health and wellness through public space programming.
7.4. Consider the separate and combined needs of children, youth, families, adults, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.

Ensure that staff capabilities match park and recreation needs.

Residents’ are encouraged to use parks and recreation facilities when they are open at convenient times and when there are staff available to support their experience. Currently, people feel uncertain about the hours that Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers and indoor and
outdoor pools are open. Nearly half of survey respondents said they do not participate in programs because of the times the programs are offered, and close to a third of respondents said they do not visit parks and recreation centers more often because facility operating hours are not convenient.


8.1. Increase permanent and contracted staff capacity and capabilities.
8.2. Provide regular training to ensure that existing staff develop the skills to perform their duties.

Enhanced Spaces

Elevate the design of park facilities.

Basic amenities like restrooms, seating, shade/shelter, lighting, water fountains, and directional/informational signage in parks are critical to an enjoyable parks and recreation experience. In addition, residents expressed interest in moving towards universally accessible playgrounds, natural playgrounds, elements that reflect the unique identity of the community, and multi-use facilities frequently mentioned.


9.1. Develop a unified design language for parks and recreation facilities that is flexible enough to reflect individual community identities.
9.2. Consider the design of adjacent parks, recreation facilities, and other public facilities holistically.
9.3. Strive for design excellence in the development and refresh of parks and recreation facilities.
9.4. Incorporate public art, including landscape-based art and functional art, into parks and recreation facilities.

Better leverage recreation facility resources to enhance the delivery of recreation programming.

Neighborhood Resource & Recreation Centers provide not just recreational opportunities but social, cultural, and other support services. Appropriate resources will allow for these facilities to meet the needs of current and future residents and expand their services. In the survey, less than a quarter of respondents said that recreation centers are in excellent or good condition indicating the need for enhanced recreation spaces throughout Cleveland.


10.1. Optimize the use of NRRCs to best meet recreation needs and provide access to City services.
10.2. Utilize this plan’s level of service standards as a planning tool to manage recreation assets efficiently and reduce
duplication of services without reducing the overall quality of
10.3. Create a welcoming, safe, and seamless experience between recreation facilities and adjacent parks.

Protect and enhance natural, historic, and cultural resources in parks and at recreation facilities.

Clevelanders want parks that feel more natural and incorporate sustainable elements that move beyond grass. This includes increased tree canopy, wildlife habitats, ecological diversity through native plantings, opportunities to interact with nature, and unprogrammed green space. In the survey, unprogrammed green spaces (36%) and natural areas and wildlife habitats (29%) were both in the top four most important outdoor facilities to respondents.


11.1. Integrate natural resources and natural resource interpretation into the design of parks and recreation facilities.
11.2. Promote the planting, preservation, and maintenance of canopy trees and native vegetation.
11.3. Expand the capacity to care for natural resources.
11.4. Capitalize on historic and cultural resources, themes, neighborhood history, and stories in parks and recreation facilities. [e.g., Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area]

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