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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Problem-Solving Meeting Example: Neighborhood Park at Risk


It's springtime, and a neighborhood park in a Midwestern city of 50,000 is having problems. The Parks Superintendent, Al Smith, has informed Park Board members about acts of vandalism: posts and railings are being ripped from bridges, graffiti is being painted on benches, and off-road bikes are ridden over grassy banks, making trails and causing erosion. Local police caught four juveniles shooting pellet guns at hikers at the park and discovered three other youths rappelling from the Hundred Foot Bridge over Crow Creek. (Rappelling had been heavily discouraged after a youngster fell, injuring himself seriously two years ago.) Finally, residents of a nearby subdivision are depositing tree limbs and grass clippings near the park entrance, and realtors are using the entrance way to post "FOR SALE" signs.

Al Smith also pointed out a project offer made by a Boy Scout earning his Eagle Scout badge. Andrew Pike asked the Board if he could landscape a parking lot and entryway to a new trail in the park and presented a plan for flowers, plants, and trees.

A problem-solving session is called for! First, consider what the meeting objective should be. Is it to deal with each individual problem or would an overall approach work better? Think about these things: what is the problem, who is responsible for dealing with the problem, what is causing the problem, what actions would eliminate the problem, and what other problems may occur if particular actions are taken. A good meeting objective might read: to create a list of solutions for our neighborhood park problems. Then create an agenda for this problem-solving meeting.

The minutes for the meeting reflected the action discussed. The issue discussion yielded the result that the problem was caused by young people in the park, especially at night, a lack of supervisory "presence," and flagging community support for the park. The Town Board accepted responsibility for pursuing solutions. The brainstorming produced these:

Rappelling from bridge

make it unlawful

fence entire park

use security cameras

bridge attendant

build climbing wall

Pellet-gunning hikers

community service for guilty

forbid hiking on trails

patrol hiking areas

warning signs for hikers

arm hikers (in some way)

Destroying bridge railings/posts

reinforce posts/railings

install steel or concrete p/r

put electric charge on rail

better lighting

volunteer patrols

Biking on hills/causing erosion

designate bike paths/trails

barriers on eroded areas

loose gravel on eroded areas

plant flowers & trees in area

sprinkler system

Graffiti on benches

remove benches

build "graffiti wall"

night patrols

local artists paint benches

adopt-a-bench program

Dumping yard wastes

increased lighting at entrance

guard dogs

surveillance cameras

recycling/compost area

yard waste pickup at homes

Real estate signs

tell realtors no signs

put up NO SOLICITING signs

time limits for advertising

realtors sponsor park signs: no biking, etc.

realtors sponsor vests for volunteers



Meeting Objective:

To create a list of solutions for our neighborhood park problems


Group Members:


May 10

1. Leader:

Al Smith


7:00 PM

2. Facilitator:

Messina Alvarez


Town Hall

3. Recorder:

Frank Corvin


4. Attendees:

Town Board members

Meeting called by:

Al Smith



Agenda Item



Person Responsible

1. Opening

Meeting roles

Process overview


2 min.

Al Smith (AS)

Messina Alvarez

2. Overview of problems

Shooting hikers with pellet guns

Rappelling on bridge

Destroying bridge rails & posts

Bikes making trails

Graffiti on benches

Yard waste at entrance

Real estate ad signs


1 min.

AS & Frank Corvin

3. Discussion of issues

Problem causes?

Whose responsibility?

Ordinary group

5 min.

AS, MA, FC & Town Board

4. Listing solutions

Ordinary group brainstorming

10 min.


5. Selecting best solutions (at least five)

Ordinary group

5 min.


6. Discussion of impact

Ordinary group

3 min.


7. Summary of meeting actions

Interactive lecture

1 min.


8. Setting decision-making meeting date & closing


1 min.

AS & Board

After the brainstorming portion of the meeting, Frank Corvin noted that some solutions were positive and some were negative. He suggested that unrealistic solutions, such as putting an electric charge on bridge rails be eliminated and that solutions which were positive and involved community effort to accomplish be used in the final list of solutions. The final list:

  1. A call for public participation

    Adopt-a-spot program for bridge, trails, and benches

    Form a citizens' watch program with volunteers from all age groups

  2. Facilities improvement

    Increase lighting in park

    Designate bike trails and construct barriers for bikes on eroded areas

    Sponsor bench-painting contest with local artists or school children

    Establish a park curfew/closing time; police patrol at night

  3. Community services cooperation

    Police patrol outside park perimeter for pellet-gun shooters

    Community service for juvenile offenders—park maintenance

    Realtors sponsor vests to identify volunteers on duty

    Enact ordinance to make bridge rappelling illegal

    Encourage service organizations (Lions, Kiwanas, church groups) to sponsor more youth activities in the community

    Yard waste pick up in subdivision

During the discussion of impact of these solutions, the participants voiced their satisfaction with a positive approach to problems. Since budget concerns were an issue, the Board felt effective, but not costly solutions could be found. They discussed encouraging more Boy Scout projects, similar to Andrew Pike's. They realized that involving the community would require their coordinating efforts and more meetings at Town Hall, but they felt they could do that. Finally, they agreed to get information on implementation and meet again to decide which ideas to implement first.

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