To qualify for funding targeted to improve parks and open spaces, cities’ Parks departments in Washington State need to have a plan. That plan is typically called a Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan, or PROS Plan for short. Some communities choose a slightly different name, but the concept stays the same.
This PROS plan guides the programming and capital projects of the Parks department for the following six-years.
What are capital projects?
For pickleball, it would be building new pickleball facilities or repurposing other facilities for pickleball.
What is programming?
For pickleball, that would be pickleball activities organized by your Parks department such as pickleball leagues, tournaments, indoor drop-in, etc.
How often is the PROS plan updated?
Every six years. If a pandemic occurs during the fifth or sixth year of the plan, all bets are off.
What is in a PROS plan?
The plan usually consists of an inventory of the current facilities, a survey of the community’s wishes, a paring down of those wishes into a manageable list of projects to accomplish over the next 6 years, in priority order. All this gets distilled in a few hundred pages.
Who writes the plan?
Typically, the Parks department in collaboration with external consultants.
How long does it take to write a PROS plan from start to finish?
12 to 18 months.
Who can provide input into the plan?
In theory anyone who is aware that a Parks Department is seeking input can share their ideas.
In practice, different entities will have different levels of influence.
For instance, the mayor and city council might have their own priorities, like using part of the community centers as preschools, or focusing their recreation budget on troubled teens. The Parks superintendent might have their own priorities, such as improving the number of free programs for underserved populations. Various divisions of the Parks Department will rightfully hope for more money to improve their own work.
Different citizen groups will have their own ideas of what matters to the community: a new aquatic complex, new and improved dog parks, new artificial turf on the athletic fields, land acquisition for new parks, and maybe even paint to mark pickleball courts on existing tennis courts. Assuming that the Parks budget is not large enough to cover everyone’s wishes, someone is not going to get what they want. Is it going the be the mayor? Is it going to be the superintendent? Is it going to be the dog owner? Is it all of the above? It depends.
The priorities can be also molded by the input gathering process. For instance, how will your Parks department know what the current demand for pickleball courts is, if they don’t explicitly ask for that information in their surveys?
With so many varied interests competing for a limited amount of money, will there ever be money for pickleball?
Sure. Parks departments don’t cater solely to the majority. Your Parks Department might have a cricket field, a rugby field, or roller derby lines in their gyms for instance, even though most of the citizen they serve do not participate in any of those sports.
Who makes the final decision?
The plan will probably be written by your Parks Department and outside consultants. A draft version will be submitted to the public for comments. The final version will be submitted to the city council for approval.
If the people who write the plan have no interest in pickleball, there is little chance that pickleball will be part of the plan. Or the plan might mention pickleball but not include any money for it.
Having support from within the Parks department or from City Hall can make a tremendous difference regarding whether or not pickleball becomes part of the plan.
At the end of the day, the amount of support your Parks Department shows for pickleball depends on political factors as much as rational factors.
Is the decision process transparent?
That is very unlikely.
Is the decision process fair?
As we explained above, there are many competing interests. Some will win, some will lose. If your project doesn’t get the attention you think it deserves, you will most likely not approve of the decision process.
What happens if my project doesn’t make the final cut?
Your Parks department is going to be busy implementing their PROS plan for the next 6 years. If your project is not part of that plan, any time you talk to your Parks department, you are going to be distracting from the actual work that they are supposed to be doing as specified in their PROS plan.
What happens if my project makes the final cut?
If your project makes the final cut, it is now part of the official list of things your Parks department will secure budget for and work on in the next 6 years. That will make it much easier to talk to them about taking actions in support of pickleball.
Why is it important that pickleball facilities and programs be included in your PROS plan?
For the next 6 years, your Parks Department is going to be implementing the new PROS plan. It will be much easier to get more and better pickleball facilities and programs if they are included in the PROS plan than if they are not part of the plan. See the two points above.
I have taken my Parks Department’s most recent PROS plan survey. Now what?
Assume that your Parks Department ran that survey because they are required to do so and that they have no intention to take into account any input that is not inline with their priorities. Even if your input is too loud to ignore, they might record it but still not fund it.
So, get organized. Find out about all the other surveys and ensure your pickleball community completes them. Attend all your Parks department’s public meetings regarding the PROS plan, and bring your pickleball community. Plead your case with your city’s Board of Parks Commissioners and your city council.
When will my Parks department revisit its PROS plan?
You can find the answer by searching for your city’ name and the word “PROS plan” as in “Seattle PROS Plan” or “Shoreline PROS Plan”.