February 4th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, printed with permission of the Renville County Register


A while back, I was sitting in my “thinking chair” and in my mind, did a quick inventory of the parks in Olivia. There are actually nine parks in that town that are available for the public for recreation. Seven of the nine parks are examples of “true parks” with Kids playground equipment, basketball, tennis, and such as activities in them. Two are small and not typical parks as you will see in a future article.

Well, I thought, “How do our area towns treat parks on their web sites?” I knew that all our towns have a website from previous “looking”. I hope you all have been on your town’s web site to see how it comes across to the visitor. And, while there, check out the status of parks and how they are “sold” to the visiting public on the site.

As I browsed through the sites for our area towns, I was disappointed by how little some towns promote their parks and recreational facilities. You may feel the way I did as I browsed the sites.

Anyway, it wasn’t something all towns can be proud of. Some towns showed a picture or two of some park amenities, but most didn’t. Some barely mentioned that there were parks in the town. The status of parks as an attractant to the town was not a big issue in some web sites. In some towns, only the athletic parks (baseball, for instance) were promoted as an asset.

Some of us are very interested in economic development of our area towns. We want to see more people and businesses stay here and for more people to move to our towns and to open new businesses here. After a brief study of our area town websites, we felt that there is a big empty spot there. It is hard to see an empty spot, but you will know it when you see it.

The empty spot is how towns seek new people and businesses. Promoting our towns and area to potential visitors and potential new residents is missing in some sites, weak in others. Just how serious are we at recruitment and retention of people in our towns?

Well, I live in Olivia. This town has 9 parks. But there isn’t a serious attempt to show what the parks are and what they have to attract people. That needs a lot of work. Each town should look at their web sites and see how hard it is to learn anything about tourist amenities and what their parks offer to the folks.

Some sites promote things outside of their towns that people might like to visit and enjoy, like the Renville County Parks, Historical Sites, Museums and recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing, but most of those are in the Valley of the Minnesota River. How about in our own towns? Tourist amenities are one of the best kept secrets on our sites. Yes, we talk about our schools and our friendly people. Can you imagine saying our people aren’t friendly? All towns should brag about their “Friendly People” if they have any.

Are job openings listed? Who is hiring? This information is lacking in many sites. Some sites list housing availability and realtors to contact. Some towns list the names of their Mayors and Council members, some don’t. Should a town’s web site, scream, “Come and look at us; we are a great place to move to and have a business in.”?

Well, my friends, we do have a great County in which to live. We do have nice, safe, friendly towns that would be nice to live in, raise kids in, and grow as a family in. The web sites were generally inadequate in this regard. Are there motels, eating places, bed-and-breakfast places in our towns that should be included on our web sites? Were businesses or “factories” listed that people could look into as possible employment?

Some sites had calendars of events, and hadn’t been updated in some time, showing only last year’s events. Possible visitors wouldn’t see any reasons to visit.

Are our towns “Senior Friendly”? Do we list retirement housing, assisted living places or nursing homes? Senior-friendly towns usually list the healthy-living amenities. This, of course, would include parks, trails, fitness facilities and recreational opportunities. Busy Seniors are usually healthy Seniors. Bike and hike trails are a real asset for healthy Seniors. Parks can be places for meditation and reflection, both healthy things for anyone to participate in. Is there a place where Seniors can gather and enjoy the camaraderie that prevails there. Senior centers are not listed in most town web sites.

Next week, in Part 2 of this series on Parks and Recreation, we will list and discuss things that can be done in parks to make them more attractive to local people and to visitors. The village of Olivia has a park with a pond so some activities that involve water may not apply to your town, but all Renville County towns can do SOMETHING to promote more use of their parks.

Your assignment (home work?) is to visit your town’s web site and see how it covers the topic of parks, recreation, and other things listed in this article. Are they friendly to Seniors? Does your town’s web site encourage visitors and potential new citizens to move to your town?


Sven reminds us at this time, when we are examining our towns’ web sites and our parks and recreation possibilities that: “If you are going to do something, make it matter, and do what you can with what you have where you are, and don’t chase your productive citizen away.”

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