It is axiomatic that where there exists a need which cannot be filled because of an information vacuum, someone will step forward and find a way to fill that vacuum. So it was with the Special District Forum.
Richard Trudeau, then General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District, found that NRPA could not furnish the names of other multi-county special districts in the United States early in 1970. At that time, the East Bay Regional Park District was attempting to influence the Congress of the inclusion of multi-county districts in Federal revenue sharing. The result was that Trudeau began formulating his own list. As a member of the Program Committee for the NRPA Congress in Anaheim, CA in the fall of 1972, Trudeau put together a meeting of those Special Districts with whom he had contact. Not only did that meeting in Anaheim prove of interest to the special districts attending, but there was a move to continue such meetings. A flight was organized from Anaheim to Oakland for a one-day chartered bus tour of the East Bay Regional Park District. This met with such enthusiastic comments that the tour of parks and park facilities became an integral part of the Special Districts Forum.
The East Bay Regional Park District formally hosted the next Special District Forum in 1973, which lasted for one week, with tours of parks and park facilities, mixed with educational discussions on such topics as park foundations, legislation and lobbying, fund raising, operations and maintenance, environmental education, land acquisition, planning, public relations and public safety. That meeting was attended by Senator David Durenberger, then President of the Board of Hennepin County Park Preserve District. The meeting proved helpful to all, with one special district adopting some ideas which ultimately prevented some severe problems they otherwise would have had. Since that time, tours and educational sessions have been part of most Special District Forums. These have traditionally been held in May or early June on a rotation basis, with smaller special districts invited to attend as well.
The host agency has also had the responsibility of setting up a meeting of the Special Districts at breakfast at every NRPA Congress, where there has been a sharing of ideas and problems, plus determination of the host agencies in the years to come.
The Special Districts Forums have been getting bigger and better. The exchange of ideas has proven of great value and networking has been possible also as a result of the contacts made.
George Siehl, Associate Director of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors for Trends and Forecasts, attended the meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. And an issue paper was prepared by Trudeau for the President’s Commission on the importance and role of the large special districts.
There are obvious advantages to Special Districts, since they can be bolder than can departments of a city or county and can focus full attention on fulfilling the public needs, as well as moving into the community to gain private funding support.
There is importance in keeping the Special District Forums going, along with the meetings at the NRPA Congress.
October 10, 1989 – RCT