Strategic Plan


The Department of Parks and Recreation’s Strategic Plan provides a shared vision that inspires and motivates to fulfill the Department’s mission. It establishes our direction, sets priorities and prepares us for the future.

Arlington County’s Parks and Recreation Goals and Objectives

Kid playing

Goal 1: Provide excellent places and spaces to meet community needs.

Objective 1. Ensure equitable access for recreation, play and enjoying nature by adding and improving public spaces. (PSMP-SD1)*

[Strategy 1] Add at least 30 acres of new public space over the next 10 years. (1.1)
[S2] Utilize level of service as a planning tool to manage public space assets efficiently. (1.2)
[S3] Ensure access to spaces that are intentionally designed to support casual, impromptu use and connection with nature. (1.3)
[S4] Explore opportunities to expand or add recreational facilities and improve efficiency. (1.4)
[S5] Make better use of existing public spaces through system-wide planning and investments in facilities. (1.5)
[S6] Provide more support services and amenities for public space users. (1.6)
[S7] Strive for universal access. (1.7)
[S8] Ensure and enhance access to the Potomac River, Four Mile Run and their tributaries, while improving the tree, canopy, native vegetation and other natural resources along waterways. (1.8)
[S9] Strive for a more attractive and sustainable public space system. (1.9)
[S10] Enhance spaces with temporary uses and “pop-up” programming. (1.10)

Objective 2. Improve the network of trails to, within and between public spaces to increase access and enhance connectivity. (PSMP-SD2)

[Strategy 1] Expand Arlington’s network of connected multi-use trails. (2.1)
[S2] Improve existing trails that currently do not meet design standards or user demands. (2.2)
[S3] Ensure trails function for a range of users. (2.3)
[S4] Provide or make better connections to hiking trails. (2.4)
[S5] Develop and implement a consistent signage and wayfinding system. (2.5)
[S6] Better coordinate planning for and management of trails. (2.6)

Objective 3. Plan and adjust public spaces for the needs of a growing and changing population, balancing natural resource protection, recreation needs and equity.

[Strategy 1] Complete construction of Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center.
[S2] Complete construction of Lubber Run Community Center.
[S3] Begin near-term implementation of park master plans including Jennie Dean and Rosslyn Highlands.
[S4] Identify existing grass fields to convert to synthetic turf and/or add lighting, utilizing criteria and methodology described in the PSMP.
[S5] Explore new opportunities for space sharing with other public and private entities as a way to extend recreation capacity.
[S6] Look for opportunities to preserve and expand natural resource areas through the CIP process.

Walking in the park

Objective 4. Plan, design, build and maintain a sustainable system of public spaces for enjoyment of nature and recreation.

[Strategy 1] Incorporate best management practices for sustainability.
[S2] Integrate the allocation of realistic maintenance budget during planning
and design of new projects.
[S3] Improve process for input from staff and community throughout planning,
designing and building new resources.
[S4] Incorporate natural spaces in new projects and conserve those we have.
[S5] Create innovative urban green experiences and spaces.
[S6] Strive to apply biophilic principles in DPR policies and practices.

Objective 5. Ensure public spaces and facilities are operated and maintained efficiently and to defined standards. [PSMP SD6]

[Strategy 1] Ensure maintenance standards are clear, consistently implemented and being met. (PSMP-6.1)
[S2] Improve asset management and maintenance using life-cycle assessment, Cartegraph and improved funding for parks maintenance capital projects and field maintenance.
[S3] Complete an inventory, strategy and cost estimates for renovating or replacing park and recreation assets 

Goal 2: Provide excellent programs and services to meet community needs.

Objective 1. Deliver excellent programs and services that respond to community needs.

[Strategy 1] Identify and respond to demand to provide a wide variety of programming for people of all ages, abilities and interests.
[S2] Develop an annual programs and services plan that is responsive to changing demographics and supports accreditation standards.
[S3] Create new partnerships/collaborations with other agencies, organizations, or individuals and evaluate current partnerships.
[S4] Create systems and capacity to ensure successful program planning, coordination and evaluation.
[S5] Ensure program procedures include guidelines on safe interactions with the public.
[S6] Address programming needs of historically underserved communities.

Objective 2. Address recreation needs of a growing population.

[Strategy 1] Provide expanded aquatics and fitness opportunities at Long Bridge.
[S2] Develop and provide community recreation opportunities at the new Lubber Run Community Center.
[S3] Apply athletic field allocation guidelines and analyze field utilization.
[S4] Evaluate uses of space.
[S5] Respond to residents’ desires for nature and fitness.
[S6] Enhance customer service processes to keep pace with growing demand.

Project Five at Senior Center cards

Objective 3. Ensure program offerings continue to respond to changing user needs. (PSMP-SD5)*

[Strategy 1] Regularly evaluate program demand and adjust offerings. (5.1)
[S2] Implement best practices in program life cycles to maintain a culture of quality program delivery. (5.2)
[S3] Periodically evaluate each program’s participation, finances and outcomes. (5.3)
[S4] Periodically evaluate which programs are using indoor and outdoor spaces to identify needs for additional space and opportunities to reallocate space. (5.4)
[S5] Continue to strengthen the County’s commitment to improving public health and wellness through public space programming. (5.5)
[S6] Use programming to activate parks and public spaces. (5.6)

Objective 4. Increase community awareness of parks and recreation resources.

[Strategy 1] Create systems and capacity to successfully market departmental programs, services and vision.
[S2] Produce accurate, timely, transparent and easy to understand internal and external communications.
[S3] Expand and improve external and internal communication methods and innovative technology applications.
[S4] Partner with other County departments to spread awareness of DPR programs.

Goal 3: Steward natural and historical resources.

Objective 1. Protect, restore, enhance and expand natural and historic resources, and increase resource-based activities. (PSMP-SD3)

[Strategy 1] Update the Urban Forest Master Plan and the Natural Resources Management Plan through a combined process. (3.1)
[S2] Protect, restore and expand natural resources and trees. (3.2)
[S3] Integrate natural resources, trees and natural resource interpretation into the design of public spaces. (3.3)
[S4] Foster, develop, and promote nature-based education, recreation and training programming across ages and skill levels. (3.4)
[S5] Promote conservation stewardship volunteerism that enables individuals and organizations to leave a positive legacy in the park system. (3.5)
[S6] Develop a plan for the management of cultural, historic and archaeological resources that will address how the County will achieve the preservation,
protection, conservation and interpretation of such resources on County owned or managed land. (3.6)

Objective 2. Conserve, enhance and acquire natural areas and historical resources.

[Strategy 1] Protect and expand high-value natural lands through acquisition, restoration and/or conservation.
[S2] Conduct regular inventories and census of natural resources to understand trends and needs for conservation.
[S3] Integrate historical inventories with natural resource inventories through documentation and education.
[S4] Utilize feedback from natural resource and historic staff in park planning, development, and maintenance.
[S5] Develop an inventory and plan for management of historic resources.

Kid drawing

Objective 3. Preserve and improve tree canopy.

[Strategy 1] Build tree canopy maintenance resources into park development projects and upgrades.
[S2] Expand tree canopy in existing locations and along riparian buffers, using urban tree canopy assessment and on-the-ground plot data, in collaboration with other landowners.
[S3] Strengthen and expand policies to preserve tree canopy.
[S4] Integrate countywide tree maintenance goals and processes.
[S5] Develop collaborations and educational outreach to expand tree canopy on private land.

Objective 4. Advance historical and natural resources education and interpretation.

[Strategy 1] Position nature centers as great places to visit, learn and team-build through programs, pricing and marketing.
[S2] Ensure nature and historical center management and facility maintenance complement department-wide processes and benchmarks.
[S3] Provide varied resources so the interpretive units can expand their environmental and historical missions.
[S4] Regularly present nature and history programs at Lubber Run, other community centers and nontraditional venues to expand audiences.
[S5] Enhance experiences of nature and explore resident interests in a variety of nature experiences.

Objective 5. Develop and maintain internal and external partnerships to improve natural resource management.

[Strategy 1] Develop a process to promote community stewardship of parks and natural areas.
[S2] Formalize public/private partnerships to advance sustainable and creative park and recreation resources.

Objective 6. Strengthen sustainability policies. (PSMP-SD6.2)

[Strategy 1] Integrate environmentally sound sustainable practices into park management practices.
[S2] Evaluate daily and annual park management tasks to find opportunities to conserve resources and promote sustainability.
[S3] Explore alternative methods for natural resource management.
[S4] Educate the public and staff about County sustainable practices.

Goal 4: Build community, promote wellness and ensure equal access for all.

Objective 1. Emphasize equity in our planning of programs and public spaces.

[Strategy 1] Identify underrepresented groups and help them participate and feel connected.
[S2] Revise programming opportunities to reflect population changes, based on the best available demographic data.
[S3] Assign roles to staff for conducting outreach.
[S4] Study health equity statistics to help address disparities in health outcomes.
[S5] Conduct fee reduction outreach and create an easier, more efficient fee reduction process for expanded access to programs and services.
[S6] Provide free programming opportunities for the community.
[S7] Continue to provide welcoming facilities and experiences.
[S8] Conduct needs assessment with non-participants to better meet their needs.
[S9] Improve access using data, technology and efficient processes.

Objective 2. Improve public engagement.

[Strategy 1] Implement County protocol for when and how civic engagement is included in staff work.
[S2] Engage residents in volunteer leadership and planning roles and provide education on how to participate.

Artful Events poster

Objective 3. Provide opportunities to build community through special events, volunteer opportunities and spaces designed to bring people together.

[Strategy 1] Plan special events around community-building objectives such as shared traditions, cultural heritage, embracing diversity, intergenerational connections and community teamwork.
[S2] Provide volunteering opportunities which strengthen community by enabling residents to work together, serve and lead.
[S3] Design spaces with the intent of inviting community members to spend time together.

Objective 4. Enhance fitness, wellness and healthy lifestyle programming and facilities.

[Strategy 1]: Increase engagement in physically active recreation and enjoyment of parks and trails to foster active, healthy lifestyles.
[S2] Use policy, programming, marketing and other mechanisms to foster active lifestyles and create sustainable environments for healthy living.
[S3] Offer leisure activities that add balance to life, including community art, nature experiences and a variety of drop-in opportunities.
[S4] Recognize and promote the documented physical and mental health benefits of nearby natural areas.
[S5] Promote wellness by integrating natural and biophilic design into public spaces.

Goal 5: Manage assets efficiently and effectively.

Objective 1. Enhance the fiscal sustainability of Arlington’s public spaces. (PSMP-SD 4)*

[Strategy 1] Work with Arlington Public Schools to maximize availability and stewardship of public spaces. (4.1)
[S2] Work with the National Park Service, NOVA Parks and other federal, state and regional bodies to elevate public awareness and access to their facilities and land in Arlington and ensure consistent experiences. (4.2)
[S3] Support the establishment of non-profit groups or umbrella foundations dedicated to public space advocacy, fundraising and implementation of public spaces and programs. (4.3)
[S4] Support and strengthen the County’s volunteer programs for public spaces. (4.4)
[S5] Secure funding to support development and maintenance of public spaces and ensure those public funds are efficiently and wisely spent. (4.5)
[S6] Identify and pursue non-County funding sources to supplement County funds to support capital improvements and programs. (4.6)

Objective 2. Work within annually adopted budget and comply with policies and procedures.

[Strategy 1] Create guides and develop training for understanding budget and financial reports.
[S2] Develop educational materials on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
[S3] Establish principles and processes to ensure budget is fully utilized throughout the fiscal year in a planned, thorough and thoughtful manner.
[S4] When possible, respond to changing needs of the organization with financial flexibility and a focus on equity.

Objective 3. Maintain and share inventories of programs, services, places and spaces.

[Strategy 1] Identify inventories to maintain; explain purpose of maintaining.
[S2] Develop system for periodic updates to maintain accuracy of information.
[S3] Identify key staff to maintain specific inventories.
[S4] Upgrade asset management database and work order system.

Objective 4. Maintain and share financial and budgetary data.

[Strategy 1] Develop system for periodic updates to maintain accuracy.
[S2] Create standards for managers/supervisors on what and how to communicate about budget.

Objective 5. Determine life cycles for park and recreation assets and schedule maintenance, replacement and/or renovation funding.

[Strategy 1] Develop department-wide definitions for assets.
[S2] Identify life spans of assets.
[S3] Update and maintain accurate replacement costs; adjust for inflation or

Goal 6: Attract, cultivate and retain an effective and dynamic workforce.

Objective 1. Increase training and professional development opportunities.

[Strategy 1] Develop and implement a marketing plan to enhance awareness of training opportunities.
[S2] Enhance developmental opportunities such as mentoring, cross training, shadowing and job sharing.
[S3] Provide trainings that support safe and healthy interactions between staff and the public.
[S4] Pursue an equity-focused internal learning initiative aligned with the County’s equity goals.
[S5] Support external training needs for staff to maintain knowledge of emerging trends in their areas of expertise.

Objective 2. Provide multiple ways for staff members to connect with each other, DPR leadership and the various types of work DPR carries out.

[Strategy 1] Initiate informal opportunities in settings where department staff can interact with department leadership.
[S2] Build morale by creating opportunities to interact with colleagues in a relaxed setting.
[S3] Explore connection opportunities to include mid-level leadership, part time staff and peer-to-peer development.

Objective 3. Recognize and celebrate excellence and innovation.

[Strategy 1] Celebrate recognized staff and their achievements.
[S2] Create an environment that encourages staff to share innovative ideas and recognize each other’s contributions.
[S3] Provide desired technology and tools that support excellence and innovation.

Objective 4. Implement approaches to improve accountability.

[Strategy 1] Develop systems and processes to ensure work is being accomplished.
[S2] Identify actions to demonstrate accountability at all levels of the organization.
[S3] Support processes that address organizational development challenges, such as peer coaching and team building.

Objective 5. Develop practices that encourage a safe and healthy work environment.

[Strategy 1] Encourage flexible schedules that allow employees to enjoy healthy and balanced lifestyle choices.
[S2] Promote DPR staff awareness of and participation in health and wellness programs available in the County.
[S3] Foster correct use of Personal Protective Equipment, vehicle safety equipment and AEDs.
[S4] Examine workspaces for ways to make the work environment healthier and safer.
[S5] Develop a department crisis management plan.

Objective 6. Promote and utilize best recruitment, hiring and retention practices.

[Strategy1] Identify and recommend opportunities for improving the overall life cycle from vacancy to new hire on-boarding.
[S2] Provide desired technology and tools to streamline HR processes.
[S3] Pilot new approaches for temporary staff recruitment and retention.

Objective 7. Provide support to manage change in workforce and workplace.

[Strategy 1] Lead organizational development and teambuilding.
[S2] Provide resources for change management during Lubber Run move, Long Bridge staffing and retirement transitions.
[S3] Support mobile and flexible work arrangements.
[S4] Continue to provide training and other resources to support workforce diversity.
[S4] Promote excellent internal and external customer service (CARES).
[S5] Foster a culture of trust.