The Austin Chronicle

Parks Department Implements ID Cards

PARD says "everyone is welcome"

By Michael King, March 31, 2017, News

Got your Rec pass? That may be the new question posed to Austin Parks and Recreation Department visitors in coming weeks. PARD is currently implementing a "pass" system that will ask users of rec centers, senior centers, cultural facilities, and the like to swipe their new, free pass upon entering the facilities. According to PARD Assistant Director Kim McNeeley, the "pass" is not an ID, per se, but simply a means for the department to keep better track of facility usage, in order to plan programs, adjust schedules and staffing, and document use and need of the facilities. (Facilities will begin issuing the free IDs in April.)

The new practice, currently in testing at some facilities, McNeeley said, is a response to last year's "resource allocation audit" of PARD. That auditor's report concluded glumly that "Current data collection tools for tracking key program information are not effective, and these tools do not produce complete, reliable program information." The existing system – largely informal sign-in sheets and rough tallies – concluded the auditors, is "ineffective at providing a basis for strategic department-wide decision making."

Ergo the new pass system (still working out the bugs). McNeeley emphasized that the data collected will not include "personal identification, like Social Security or driver's license numbers," but is strictly for the purpose of tracking overall facility usage. Moreover, she said, that if "for any reason, you don't feel comfortable having a pass, you don't need to do it."

"Everyone is welcome" at PARD facilities, McNeeley reiterated. "If you're not comfortable with a pass, you will not be excluded. We're just trying to do a better job of tracking our attendance." For folks who decline to swipe, she said, "We'll just try to keep an estimate. No one will ever be denied access."

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