Planners hope corporate sponsors will net funding for Montgomery’s public parks -- Gazette.Net


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Visitors to Montgomery County’s public parks this fall could see the names of corporate sponsors on facilities such as ice rinks, dog parks and playgrounds.

The Montgomery County Planning Board adopted a corporate sponsorship policy Jan. 31 to allow companies to name park assets or programs in exchange for financial support.

The Montgomery County Parks Foundation would administer the corporate sponsorship program in coordination with the Montgomery County Department of Parks.

Debbie Rankin, executive director of the foundation, said budget cuts over the past five years are the primary reason for instituting the policy.

“There was a $6.5 million budget gap in 2011. More in years before that,” she said.

Officials are not yet sure how much cash a sponsorship program could net for Montgomery County parks, but sponsorship programs managed by other agencies generate between $100,000 and $1.6 million per year, according to Planning Board documents. Parks Department staff will have to develop a list of facilities and programs available for sponsorship and set values for different sponsorship options.

“The next step is an internal process, starting to do some work to bundle the options for corporate sponsorships,” Rankin said. She expects that process to take about six months before the Planning Board reviews the final program guidelines.

The sponsorship program could be up and running by October, according to Planning Board documents.

Under the policy, corporate and nonprofit sponsors can name park assets and programs or receive recognition for their sponsorship. The sponsorship program includes park amenities such as athletic fields, playgrounds, pavilions, trails, buildings and art, as well as park events and programs.

Entire parks are not eligible for naming rights, advertising rights or sponsorship benefits, according to the policy.

Carole Ann Barth, president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, said the program will need more transparency than the current policy outlines. She said citizens should be able to go online and see who applied for sponsorship, what was decided and where the money is going.

“I think we would all like to see programs that we care about funded, but at the same time, we don’t want to have our parks experience diminished,” she said. “You don’t want to be going to appreciate a trail, for example, in a natural environment and have one more place where you’re assaulted with advertising. I think it has to be very carefully managed to not have that impact.”

Visit montgomeryparks.org/sponsorships for more information about the policy.

ewaibel@gazette.net