This is an excerpt from Dimensions of Leisure for Life 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access by Tyler Tapps,Mary Sara Wells,Mary S. Wells & Mary Parr.
By Andrew Mauldin and H. Joey Gray
Local government represents the level of government closest to the citizenry. Local government generally encompasses municipalities (cities, towns, villages), counties, and special districts. Municipalities are the smallest unit of government and are typically governed by a democratically elected mayor and city council. In some municipalities, the mayor plays a strong administrative role in municipal governance. In this strong mayor–council model of governance, the mayor has broad administrative duties, including hiring and firing, budgeting, and setting the strategic direction of the city. In other municipalities, a professional public administrator or city manager is hired to carry out the day-to-day governance of the municipality. The public administrator or city manager often works with the elected city council and, in many cases, an elected mayor to provide governance, hire employees, approve budgets, and make administrative decisions. This form of municipal governance is referred to as the city manager–council model (Hurd, Barcelona, & Meldrum, 2008).
Municipal governments often provide a broad range of services for their citizens. Many municipalities have police and fire departments, maintain local roads, provide schools, manage public housing units, enforce planning and zoning rules, assess and collect taxes, handle judicial cases, engage in environmental conservation and protection, and promote economic development. Municipalities often have responsibility for providing parks and recreation services to their community. In particular, municipal parks and recreation agencies are responsible for developing and maintaining a diverse range of public recreation facilities that meet the leisure needs in their communities. These facilities may include parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, community centers, aquatics facilities, beaches, pet or dog parks, community gardens, fitness facilities, golf courses, boat launches, multiple-use trail systems, skateboard parks, ice arenas, and even downhill ski hills! Municipal parks and recreation agencies are generally responsible for providing recreation programs as well. Like facilities, recreation programs vary from community to community, depending on the need of the citizenry. Programs offered by the municipal parks and recreation agency may include youth and adult sport leagues, instructional lessons, fitness classes, camps, after-school programs, historical and cultural activities, therapeutic recreation services, senior activities, and performing arts. Parks and recreation departments are often funded by some combination of appropriated tax money from the municipal government as well as user fees and other forms of public and nonpublic financing.
Many county governments offer parks and recreation services that are generally focused on rural or unincorporated areas within their jurisdiction. Many of the services found in municipal parks and recreation agencies can be found at the county level as well. This reflects a shift in the original mandate for county services, because counties were traditionally seen as administrative arms of state government, helping to provide state level services locally (Todd, 1996). Today, many county governments are involved in a vast range of service provision, including parks and recreation, and often work with local municipalities to coordinate services and to avoid duplication.
Another form of local government that has applicability to parks and recreation is the special district. Special districts are created by enabling legislation. Special districts are separate, independent forms of government that have the authority to tax and administer specific services (Hurd et al., 2008). Not all special districts are set up to administer parks and recreation services, although many special districts are set up specifically for this purpose. For example, the Greenville County Recreation District was created by enabling legislation passed by the South Carolina legislature in 1968.