Helping DeLand Bloom
City parks and landscapes are among the special treasures that make a town unique. But when Diana Hausler became a maintenance worker for DeLand’s Parks and Recreation Department, she noticed that certain city parks were being abused significantly more than others.
Because her duties included basic park maintenance – everything from landscape upkeep to trash and restroom cleanup – she saw the abuse of the facilities first-hand. She realized the mistreatment of park facilities was making her job more difficult and costing the city money, and she knew she needed to inspire a change.
Hausler’s response was to start a “Friend of the Park” group, determined to change the frame of mind of park users from one of use/abuse to a stakeholder/ownership mentality. On her own time, she set up informal meetings with regular park users and surrounding homeowners, building a trusting relationship with those most directly affected by the condition of each park in need of some TLC.
“During these meetings I served coffee and donuts and talked about what impacts property damage has on the city, as well as the benefits of keeping the park clean,” Hausler recalled. “I also listened to their concerns and tried to address them with my superiors.”
A dedicated public servant, Hausler recognizes that the upcoming Local Works Day – being celebrated by local government employees around the state on Oct. 3 – is a great opportunity to showcase how residents and visitors alike benefit from public servants.
Hausler believes her meetings gave park users the sense that they were part of a two-way conversation. By involving long-time community residents, “Friend of the Park” has made an impact on the negative elements that used to frequent some parks. Hausler has helped transform perceptions so that what were once seen as merely “places” are now viewed as valuable resources within the community.
“I like to think what I am doing in a small way is making DeLand a better place,” she said. “That is my public service story.”