What programming should Randall’s Island Park Alliance offer and what broader objectives should Randall’s Island Park Alliance seek to achieve through its program offerings?

CONTEXT

Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA) maintains, sustains, and programs a 330-acre Park, located between the Harlem and East Rivers in New York City, in order to provide opportunities for people to be active and experience the outdoors and so that world class facilities can be available to everyone, regardless of their means.  In the past five years, annual visits to the Park have increased by 1.2M or 70% so that now close to 3M visitors enjoy the Island’s offerings each year.  Those who use the Park speak glowingly about it and all its unique offerings and natural resources.  Currently, permitted usage (permitted ball fields, tennis courts, ticketed concerts, etc.) makes up the majority of Park usage, as the Park is a destination for millions of New Yorkers seeking soccer fields and baseball fields as well as venues for large events.  People also use the Park in more casual ways each year, doing things like biking, birding, picnicking, attending camp, visiting the farm or wetlands, etc.

At the outset of this strategic planning process it was unclear what direction RIPA would want to go in with its programming and public offerings.  Through data gathering and analysis, the staff and Board of RIPA became passionate around the goal of increasing the number of casual visitors so that the Island could become even more of a neighborhood Park for those in nearby East Harlem, Astoria and the South Bronx.

METHOD

Working closely with RIPA staff and Board, we:

  1.  Analyzed internal data on visitation, programming and funding
  2. Conducted interviews with staff and Board members
  3.  Spoke with community representatives in the local communities
  4. Worked with staff to deeply investigate current programming, including participant numbers, program capacity, program budgets and the volunteer programs
  5. Researched other parks in New York City, to look at public offerings, visitor numbers, volunteer programs, and fees charged to visitors
  6.  Developed a detailed strategy for launching new programs at RIPA
  7.   Defined staffing and operational changes needed
  8.  Developed financial projections
  9. Created an action plan, outlining specific responsibilities under the strategic plan and who would do what, by whe

OUTCOMES

During the planning process, RIPA decided upon a set of six strategic initiatives, focusing primarily on bringing more visitors to the Park for non-permitted offerings. This strategic direction sets RIPA on the road to greater outreach to and involvement of the local communities through a range of new offerings. The new initiatives expand RIPA’s current work, and include an increased focus on the needs of the neighboring residents.   Examples of new programs include: drop-in fitness activities; open wetlands and farm exploration days;  tours of the wetlands, gardens and other Park features; greater opportunities for volunteers; and larger signature events each year for the community, to highlight the Island’s unique resources.

This set of initiatives, together, is intended to bring more casual visitors to the Park, focus on the Island’s unique resources, and generate greater excitement about Randall’s Island Park. 

Once the strategic direction was finalized, Wellspring worked with RIPA to outline specific action steps, assign responsibilities among staff, and lay out detailed resource requirements. We also planned for a staggered implementation timeline, based on each initiative’s potential impact, funding feasibility, and ease of implementation.

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