New Parks Director Brings Years of Community Engagement Experience

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The new director of Indy Parks and Recreation says there is only one part of community engagement that is simple: “It has to happen, and it has to be done well.

Okay, that’s two things, technically, but Phyllis Boyd gets it.

There’s a reason she’s become a respected leader in the nonprofit industry. Boyd is smart enough to understand that neighborhoods are nuanced – the most effective way of communicating with the people who live there – and humble enough to admit that there is also a lot she doesn’t know.

Boyd started at Indy Parks on November 15 after six years as executive director of Groundwork Indy, an organization that employs young people to work on community projects. She recently worked with Indy Parks on community outreach plans for Riverside Adventure Park.

Phyllis Boyd outside the Washington Park Family Center on December 3, 2021 (Photo / Tyler Fenwick)

Boyd has spent much of his professional career talking to people, whether it’s a park project or sustainable design. It was there that she learned one of the principles of trustworthy community engagement: don’t make too many promises.

“I, with the best of intentions, said, ‘Oh, I can do this or that,’” she said. “And then for some reason, I couldn’t do it.”

What matters to Boyd, a biology and landscape architecture graduate, is respect. Even though there is communication overload, she thinks it’s better than surprising people.

“You never want people to feel like you are doing things to them,” she said.

Boyd said the parks department was not on her radar until the mayor’s office approached her about the opening. The last manager, Linda Broadfoot, left in August and became CEO of Second Helpings.

It didn’t take long for Boyd to understand why this decision would make sense to her. There is her background in community engagement, architecture, planning, biology and her passion for parks.

“It’s just another way of putting what I know and what I love to serve the community on a larger scale,” she said.

City leaders celebrate the 100th anniversary of Frederick Douglass Park

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Boyd as the new principal in early November.

“With a number of major park improvements and facility upgrades planned for the coming years, I look forward to working with Phyllis to improve Indianapolis’ public green spaces and strengthen the links between the parks and our neighborhoods, “he said in a statement.

Indy Parks and Recreation consists of 212 parks, 11,258 acres of green space, 130 playgrounds and 153 miles of trails. The ministry will spend $ 45 million on improvements over the next few years for projects including a new family center at Frederick Douglass Park and an additional $ 11 million for the Riverside Park master plan.

The city has also allocated $ 16.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds to upgrade nearly 30 parks.

Boyd said she was still in “absorption mode” just weeks after taking office, but her goals include adding dedicated sources of funding for operations and maintenance, as well as finding a balance between planning for the present and the future.

Contact editor Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


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