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Parks Could Do More To Improve Customer Satisfaction

Denver – Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation can do more to promote the transparency of parks permitting protocols and increase customer satisfaction, according to a recent audit of DPR’s permitting process.

“Denver’s parks and playing fields are a treasured resource where demand exceeds supply,” observed Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA.  “Whether it’s your kid’s soccer game at Huston Lake or your sister’s wedding at the Cheesman Pavilion, you want to be sure that the process of allocating that resource is fair and open.”

Improvements in recent years have diminished some of the confusion around the permitting process.  Most of the information necessary to obtain a permit is readily available on DPR’s website.  Nevertheless, DPR still lacks a comprehensive policy that formalizes, consolidates, and clarifies the process for obtaining athletic permits.  When there are competing permit applications, the public would benefit from clearer information and communication about how athletic permit priorities are set and executed.

“We appreciate that the existing performance measures are ‘output’ oriented, tracking the number of permits issued and the hours that the various sites are used,“ said Auditor O’Brien.  “However, we’d like to see Parks also track whether permits were issued efficiently and whether permit applicants were satisfied with the process.”

In examining the efficiency and effectiveness of DPR’s permitting process, the audit team assessed the extent to which DPR’s permitting procedures align with applicable legal requirements, leading management practices, and professional standards.  “We also looked at whether DPR’s fees offset the cost of providing permits and maintaining the facilities.  This is an area appropriately governed by policy,” explained Audit Supervisor LaKeshia Allen Horner. “DPR’s philosophy recognizes that the more the community benefits from a program or service, the more justification there is for taxpayers funding a portion of it.”

DPR manages 6,000 acres of urban parks and 14,000 acres of mountain parks, with more than 300 athletic fields and a range of recreational facilities.  Three of the most common permit requests are athletic field and court use; events, such as weddings, farmers’ markets, and organized protests; and picnic areas near outdoor grills and playgrounds.  Some facilities like the Washington Park Boathouse and the City Park Pavilion are so popular that the desirable dates and times are frequently booked up as soon as the event permit process opens for the year.

DPR agreed to implement the recommendations made by the audit team to gather and analyze information on customer satisfaction, perform regular evaluations for optimal cost recovery, and align performance measures with organizational goals.

Read the full report here.

Denverite Story April 23, 2017