Back to the Jul-Aug 2020 issue

Does Your City Have a Volunteer Adopt-A-Park Program?

Parks Superintendent
Waseca (Population 9,027)

The Waseca city park and trail system provides an aesthetically pleasing first impression to visitors, prospective citizens, and businesses. Clean parks and trails portray an image of a caring community. The City of Waseca implemented an Adopt-a-Park program more than 10 years ago.

Residents take ownership

The Adopt-a-Park program is a fun and educational way to assist the city in keeping our parks, trails, lakes, and open spaces clean and safe. The program also gives volunteers a feeling of ownership and community pride.

The Adopt-a-Park program is available to community groups, businesses, organizations, church groups, schools, families, and individuals. Participation has grown over the last few years, and this year, 17 of our 25 available sites have been adopted.

How the program works

Adopt-a-Park participants can sign up for a one- or two-year commitment. Parks, trails, and other sites are adopted on a first-come, first-served basis. Current participants have priority on their areas when it is time to renew their adoption.

The city Park Department asks the volunteer groups to pick up litter and debris, such as fallen tree branches, in and around their adopted area twice per month. We also ask that they let us know about any vandalism or graffiti, and report any equipment in need of repair. The city will provide trash bags if requested, as well as coordinate pickups for trash, debris, and tree limbs.

Additional projects

Adopt-a-Park participants can also request to undertake other beautification efforts in their adopted areas. The city will provide the materials for any approved improvements.

Those efforts may consist of planting trees and flowers, helping with a playground community build, or doing a small landscaping project. For example, in 2019, the Waseca Garden Club volunteered to assist with planting a native and pollinator garden within our new Musical Garden. The Musical Garden, a collaboration of the city and the Waseca Public Library, has musical equipment, a reading area, patio seating, and an area for kids to learn to grow vegetables.

We are very grateful for the volunteers that help keep our parks beautiful. The Adopt-a-Park volunteer efforts have allowed Waseca Park Department staff to focus on other maintenance project needs.


IT-GIS Coordinator
Brooklyn Park (Population 81,679)

An Adopt-a-Park program is a great way to promote civic responsibility, generate community pride, and build partnerships with residents and local businesses. In Brooklyn Park, we’ve had our program for nearly 20 years.

However, as recently as 2016, our application for the Adopt-a-Park program was a PDF form on the city’s website. We had low participation because the form needed to be printed, filled out, and either mailed or brought to our community activity center.

Quantifying park volunteer work was difficult since there was no way to visualize where that work was being done. Enter geographic information systems, or GIS.

Building on top of others’ work

After seeing the success of a recently built Adopt-a-Hydrant GIS app, our Parks and Recreation team asked GIS staff to build an app for our Adopt-a-Park program that would be easy to use on any device. The app also needed to collect contact information for the volunteers, advertise basic data about the groups doing volunteer work, and prevent more than two groups from adopting the same park.

How the app works

We built the application on a GIS platform called Geocortex Essentials using map services published through ArcGIS Enterprise. It was launched in September 2016.

When using the app, visitors are asked to enter their address or location to search for parks near their house or business. They can then select a park. Once submitted, the application automatically notifies us that we received a new submission, which we can approve or reject in an administrative version of the app.

The proof is in the pudding

Since launching the app, we’ve received and approved over 50 new applications. We got nearly half of these applications recently in an overwhelming show of environmental volunteer work for Earth Day 2020.

The app also helps our parks maintenance staff. With 60 parks in our system, it may be several days before garbage from a park cleanup event is collected on a regular weekly route. But with the app, staff know about cleanup events, allowing them to collect garbage sooner.

This program is a great asset to our city because when we’re all invested in preserving our natural resources, everyone benefits.

Check out our app at