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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 paint balls 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

Shooting paint balls at hikers

  • community service for guilty

  • forbid hiking on trails

  • patrol hiking areas

  • warning signs for hikers

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 paint balls

  • 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 paint ball 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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