Going Green

Going Green

The Hamilton Parks Conservancy works tirelessly to maintain a vast system of outdoor spaces.

If you’ve ever spent a summer afternoon at Marcum Park’s sprayground or played a round of frisbee golf at Millikin Woods, then you’ve likely seen the team of people in neon shirts mowing the grass, updating the landscaping or even turning on the water for the sprayground. Those individuals make up the Hamilton Parks Conservancy.

The Hamilton Parks Conservancy was established in January of 2015. The Conservancy focuses solely on managing and expanding the parks located within the City of Hamilton. It was created to provide services to Hamilton residents at a lower cost and to have the ability to conduct fundraising through donations. Our unique park system features 40 parks, 2 golf courses, multiple spraygrounds, recreational facilities and over 1,300 acres of natural and wooded parkland, including 5 dedicated natural areas.

Director Adam Cornette joined the Hamilton Parks Conservancy team in January of 2022. Adam brings years of experience through his previous job for a traditional style Parks and Recreation Department within the City of Blue Ash. Even though this is his first experience with a conservancy, founding director Steve Timmer showed him the ropes before retiring as director and moving into a different role at the conservancy.

“The Parks Conservancy focuses on improvements within the city and a better quality of life for its citizens. We are a 501(c)(3) non profit. We’re not in this to make any money, we’re just focusing on what we can do to improve our infrastructure and accessibility. We’re building a new park off of Gordon Smith Boulevard that's probably going to be ready in early spring. We had a survey done to see how much of the population can reach a park within ten minutes of walking, not using a vehicle or public transportation. The previous survey results in 2019 put us in the 75th percentile, which is really good. But just by adding that one park in an underserved area brings us close to the 90th percentile. That means in 2023, almost 90% of our city population will have access to a park just by walking.” stated Cornette.

The Conservancy approach ensures the parks and its budget are a priority instead of the possibility of being shoved to the side when it’s included in a large city budget. Having a separate budget from the city keeps the quality of care consistent. 17 Strong has been a massive asset in getting our neighborhoods together to improve their homes, streets, parks, etc. Different neighborhoods now have monthly meetings, such as the Lindewald PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others Celebrate Our Lindenwald) where the Parks Conservancy is able to hear directly from citizens on their unique needs.

“It's an accountability we have to give the city what they need and give the citizens what they need without worrying about as much of the government red tape that we used to have in Blue Ash. We’re able to improve the parks for people to actually use them, not just in how they appear. The biggest benefit for us as a conservancy is the ability to accept donations. We have an account over at the Hamilton Community Foundation for those donations. They can be as restricted or unrestricted as the person donating chooses. Someone can donate specifically to frisbee golf maintenance at the parks. They know where their money is going. We’re very transparent about our budget and how we use donated funds.” explained Cornette.

The conservancy model has allowed Adam’s team of 15 full-time employees and 70+ seasonal employees to strategically plan ahead with the future in mind. “It’s been challenging to change my mindset from what do I need to do at this facility today, tomorrow…Instead here [at the conservancy], it’s what are we doing this week, next year, 5-10 years…It’s adjusting the mindset to the entire system as whole rather than one individual facility. Steve was a great help working closely with me to share as much knowledge that he had at the time about how we operate and make certain decisions. He actually transitioned over to a Project Manager role to help with our capital improvements which frees me up to address other things.” shared Cornette.

Hamilton is not the first city to shift their Parks and Recreation Department into a separate Parks Conservancy but not all of them have been nationally ranked like Hamilton has. In 2018, Marcum Park was named one of five great public spaces by the American Planning Association. The state of Ohio has only twelve places recognized and Hamilton is one of them! Additionally, the city has taken part in a National Community Survey in regard to our parks system.

Here are the results:

2011 (before the HPC) : 59% of citizens surveyed are satisfied in our parks

2015 (first year of HPC) : 61%

2017 : 74%

2019 : 81%

Clearly, the move from a city department to a conservancy has been a successful decision. The results above show that over the years, more and more Hamiltonians are pleased with our parks than before the transition.

So, the next time you visit a concert at RiversEdge, make a splash at Crawford Woods or enjoy a movie in the park, know that this team works year round to guarantee a clean and enjoyable experience for all Hamilton residents.

This story is a part of a collaboration between the Hamiltonian and City of Hamilton for their 2023 annual report. You can view the whole issue of this report here:


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