Memo for fiscal year 2017, updated 2016-04-21

[Archived] What information can be provided regarding the establishment of a parks foundation?

City Council had a discussion of parks foundation during the June 11, 2014 Legislative Meeting, as part of the consideration of receipt of the Citywide Parks Improvement Plan. During that discussion, Vice Mayor Silberberg proposed that the City establish an Alexandria Parks Foundation as a tax-deductible way to support parks, open space and tree canopy in the City. The Council voted to receive the Plan, including the creation of a Parks Foundation. This action did not, however, officially establish a Parks Foundation. A copy of the relevant section of the meeting minutes is attached (Attachment 1). 

On March 24, 2016, staff sent a memo to Mayor Silberberg in response to her request for information regarding the creation of a Parks Foundation. A copy of that memo is attached (Attachment 2). This memo outlines that the purpose of a Parks Foundation, as staff understands the concept, would be to raise funds for tree planting, capital projects and other activities to benefit local parks. The establishment of a foundation or non-profit organizations to support City activities and capital projects is one way for the government to encourage private investment as a means to provide a public good.

In the last 15 years, Council has created the Alexandria Capital Development Foundation aimed at raising capital funds for City projects (this Foundation did not raise significant funds and was disbanded), the non-profit Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) which has become a successful non-profit housing developer and owner of affordable and workforce housing, as well as the Torpedo Factory Arts Board (TFAB) which currently is undergoing a discussion as to its future role. In addition, the Governance Committee of the Waterfront Commission has been talking about future governance models for the waterfront and including the possible establishment of a Parks Conservancy. 

All of these entities were established as separate organizations and either employed staff or consultants to operate these entities. If a Foundation was created it would bring with it a certain level of overhead costs and additional management time.

The core question is “What is the best way to promote giving to benefit the parks?” Encouraging private giving is a priority and the Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) has been working on a new consolidated giving program as the answer to that question. It is staff's view that current programs including the newly organized program described in more detail in Attachment 2 should work well in increasing the level of private giving towards City parks. 

Council has also received a budget memo (dated April 21, 2016) regarding the establishment of a business improvement district in the Old Town and Waterfront areas of the City. As the memo points out, both the Waterfront Commission Governance Subcommittee and local retail business owners have recommended governance structures that may involve fund raising to help support parks and open space. While these discussions are currently focusing primarily in Old Town and along the Waterfront, further exploration of these concepts may provide guidance for a city-wide approach to fundraising.

Staff recommends continuing to monitor the development of governance structure alternatives in the Old Town area, as well as the implementation of the RPCA programs described in Attachment 2. As these programs develop, staff will be better able to determine what, if any, additional support is necessary to promote giving associated with parks, open space and tree canopy.



Attachment 1 – City Council Legislative Session Minutes (June 11, 2014)

Attachment 2 – Structures and Programs for Raising Funds for Parks and Recreation Purposes


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