The Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan process began in the summer of 2017 and was expected to take approximately one year to complete. This review and planning process is seen as a vital step in guiding future decision-making on how to get the most value from our limited parkland and the facilities within them, while fulfilling the recreational wants and needs of the community.
Key elements of the process have included:
- Background Research and Analysis – to include demographics, analysis of industry trends, and comparisons with other communities.
- Public Engagement – an extensive public engagement process has included interviews, focus groups, statistically valid surveys, online surveys and public meetings.
- Evaluation of Existing Facilities, Operations and Programs – with emphasis on the Senior Center, tennis complex and athletic fields.
A draft final report has been prepared that will provide a detailed review of all the data collected and develop an overarching vision for UA’s parks system, with recommendations, priorities and implementation strategies to help guide the Parks & Recreation Department in the months and years ahead. In September and October, the community will be invited to participate in a final round of community engagement activities, to learn about the report’s findings and recommendations and to provide feedback on the document before it is finalized.
Pending any final adjustments to the plan and subsequent support from City Council, work will begin to program physical improvements within the City’s 10-year Capital Improvement Program, and to implement programming enhancement strategies.
If you have questions or wish to provide feedback on the Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan, please complete the form below.
- November 26 City Council Meeting: Passage of Resolution to Accept the Plan
- November 19 Council Conference Session Discussion: Public forum with public comments accepted
- November 15 Parks & Recreation Advisory Board: Discussion of plan, final feedback from community, Board vote to support the Plan
- November 14 Telephone Town Hall: Telephone presentation of plan highlights with opportunity for residents to ask questions/make suggestions
- November 8 Public Meeting: Presentation of the findings and recommendations, with opportunity for resident feedback
- November 5 Council Conference Session: Presentation of findings and recommendations from draft plan, with public comments accepted
- October 30 Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Meeting: Presentation of findings and recommendations from draft plan, with public comments accepted
- September 17 Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Workshop: Review and discussion of findings/recommendations
The following draft documents were shared with City Council in advance of its November 26, 2018 Meeting, and represent the final content upon which Council voted to approve a Resolution in Support of the Plan. These documents will be compiled into one final document that will be made available early in the New Year.
- Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan 2018
- Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan 2018 – Appendix A-F
- Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan 2018 – Appendix G Parks Assessments
- Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan 2018 – Appendix H Community Survey
Opportunities to be part of the process have been extensive, and the response from residents has been impressive.
- Over 300 residents participated in stakeholder interviews, focus groups and a first community meeting. This included representatives from field sports organizations, the Senior Advisory Council, Cultural Arts Commission, Northam Park Tennis Advisory Committee, Tree Commission, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, City Council, and various other public entities and civic groups.
- A quick questionnaire fielded at the beginning of the process—available at various community events and online—was completed by 885 residents.
- The goal of attaining 350 participants for a statistically-valid survey—conducted early in 2018—was far exceeded, with 653 responses.
- An online version of this survey open to all in the community—available in March—was completed by 721 people.
- 168 high school students participated in focus groups and completed surveys.
- In April 2018, PROS Consulting shared the results of this extensive data-gathering process with the community at a Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Meeting, a City Council Meeting, and a Public Meeting.
From the wealth of information gathered through the process to date, some key themes have emerged.
SATISFACTION WITH UA PARKS SYSTEM
An overarching theme emerging from this process is the passion and pride that our residents share relative to the community’s park system and the programming provided by the Parks & Recreation Department. Of note, survey respondents indicate a high level of satisfaction with the overall value provided by the parks system, much higher than the national average.
The survey also brought to light just how active residents are, with 81% of respondents stating that they have participated in multiple program offerings in the past year. And of those who have participated in one or more programs, 90% rate them as good or excellent.
The survey identified a number of programming areas that should be a priority: adult fitness and wellness programs, nature programs and special events. Medium priority program areas included various fitness, sports and wellness programs for all ages, family programs and trips to attractions and events.
From research of the Parks & Recreation Department’s programming practices and a comparison with industry best practices, some initial recommendations shared in the April presentations included:
- Standardization of department policies across divisions;
- Development of new programming reflective of emerging trends;
- An annual review of the “lifecycle” and cost considerations for existing programs, to keep programming fresh while meeting cost recovery goals.
DESIRE FOR THE CITY TO PRESERVE AND ENHANCE EXISTING PARKS AND FACILITIES
Appreciation and support for the community’s park system came through strongly at all points in the data gathering phase. Survey respondents indicated a high level of parks and facilities usage, with Northam (52%), Thompson (42%) and Fancyburg (36%) parks emerging as the facilities used the most, and Devon Pool (8%), the Senior Center (8%) and Northam Park Tennis Courts (4%) the least used facilities.
Ratings of the overall condition of the community’s parks and facilities demonstrated some correlation between age and rankings of Excellent or Good. The Amelita Mirolo Barn (98%), Tremont Pool (97%), Reed Road Water Park (96%) and Sunny 95 Park (95%) received the top marks. Still in the 90s were Thompson Park (91%) and Fancyburg Park (90%). In the 80s were Northam Park (86%), Reed Road Park (85%) and Northwest Kiwanis/Burbank Park (85%), all still impressive rankings for overall satisfaction.
A series of questions sought to identify areas that should be a priority for the City. Relative to our parks and outdoor activities, respondents identified a need for a nature center, more walking & biking trails, greenspace and natural areas. When asked about the importance of various facilities, the top three selected by survey respondents were neighborhood parks (47%), walking & biking trails (43%) and community parks (34%).
It emerged that top priorities for the City should be walking & biking trails, neighborhood parks, and a nature center, with community parks, and greenspace & natural areas ranking as medium priorities. When asked, respondents indicated they would be most supportive of City investment in the development of new walking/biking trails & sidewalks (86%), upgrades to existing neighborhood & community parks (84%), and the acquisition of property to redevelop into open space (70%).
Based on findings from parks and facilities assessments and the emerging community sentiment, some initial recommendations shared in April include:
- Enhance park pathway systems and add trail connections;
- Develop parks and facilities maintenance standards to preserve assets;
- Address park drainage issues to increase sports field playability;
- Create design standards for uniformity (benches, picnic tables, bike racks, signage, etc.)
LACK OF INDOOR RECREATION SPACE
It’s widely perceived that the City’s indoor recreation space is limited to the Senior Center and some smaller spaces such as the Amelita Mirolo Barn and some park shelters. This fact, and a strong desire by residents for the City to work to address this deficiency emerged throughout the various components of community engagement.
When asked about unmet needs, several components associated with indoor recreation emerged as top priorities: fitness & exercise facilities, multi-generational recreation center, aquatics, running/walking track. Meeting/gathering space and indoor basketball/volleyball courts emerged as medium priorities.
Part of the survey addressed the issue of indoor recreation space directly, per the following line of questioning:
Feedback received from a questionnaire and discussions with community stakeholders, recreation-affiliated entities and residents indicates an interest in a multi-generational indoor recreation facility. The existing Senior Center requires more than $2 million in critical repairs, with no expansion of facilities or programming resulting from such an expenditure. The City would like to gauge the community’s level of interest in and desire for an earnest exploration of options for indoor recreation space.
How supportive would you be of the City replacing the current Senior Center with programming space for older adults, without indoor recreation space for other segments of the population?
How supportive would you be of the City undertaking a process (which would include public involvement) to explore the feasibility of an indoor recreation facility that serves all ages and segments of the population?
36% of respondents were Very or Somewhat Supportive of replacing the Senior Center with space for older adults only. The support for further study of indoor recreation space that would serve all ages was strong, with 81% of respondents Very or Somewhat Supportive. A cross comparison of the support from different households provided additional insight on the level of support:
- Households with children under age 10 – 93%
- With children ages 10-19 – 86%
- Households ages 20-54 (with no children) – 79%
- Households ages 55+ (no children) – 70%