Parks Master Plan presented to City Council
During the Tuesday January 9 meeting of the City Council, Drew Bontrager and representatives from Vireo were on hand to present the final draft of the Park Board Master plan.
In February of 2009 the City Council adopted the City of Cameron Comprehensive Plan 2030. Parks and recreation were included as a small part of the plan. Because the Park Board recognizes parks and recreation are an essential part of a healthy community environment and the need for a plan, they began in January 2017 to work on a comprehensive parks master plan.
Bontrager expressed the Park Board’s appreciation of the Planning and Zoning committee for their assistance in forming the master plan as well.
Bontrager went on to explain to the Council that should they agree to adopt the Parks Master plan, it does not authorize any money or expenditures not consistent with normal Park and Park Board purchasing policies. For planning purposes, there were cost estimates included, but as projects move forward their scope and costs will likely change. Should the Council decide to move forward, before any plans are put in place the Park Board would first move forward with feasibility studies and surveys to help determine what is possible and what the true costs of any future projects may be.
As part of the process of developing the plan, surveys were mailed to approximately 2,000 households, public participation events were held, and the survey was made available online to anyone wishing to participate. According to Vireo, approximately 16% of those surveyed responded. As mentioned during the Council meeting, the number seems small, but typical responses in surveys such as this are much lower, more like 5%, so they were very pleased with the outcome. During the presentation, Councilman L. Corey Sloan also expressed his experience with such surveys is much the same and he felt 16% was indeed a good response.
The top priorities seen in the survey results were to focus on taking care of existing facilities and continuing to improve the safety in the existing parks. The priorities for expanded or improved facilities according to the surveys were an aquatics facility, adding amenities – such as restrooms, trails and shelters to the reservoirs, restrooms in the parks or at facilities, baseball fields, and additional trails and pathways.
The first priority seen in the surveys was the aquatics facility, which was seen as the #1 priority when it comes to future facilities, with suggestions for splash pads to be added in some of the existing parks as a no-pay option for families. The recommendation for the master plan is to move forward with current plans to renovate the Aquatic Center and consider adding a splash pad to a current park such as Beavers Park, the Soccer Complex, or McDonald Park.
The second priority, and first most important when it comes to existing facilities, was a desire to see existing facilities taken care of. Upgrades to tiring facilities, improved lighting, and amenities that appeal to more generations of users were a high priority. The recommendations are to add amenities to Cameron Reservoirs, continue to improve the connectivity and accessibility to the parks, add playgrounds and parks in underserved areas, and to replace tired site furnishings.
The trails were found to be the 2nd most important existing park amenity with a desire for connectivity to be improved between parks, neighborhoods, and points of interest, a desire for multi-generational amenities was also expressed. The recommendations in the master plan are to continue to expand the network of paved and nature trails, continue to improve the sidewalk connectivity to within ¼ to ½ mile of all parks, and to continue to add loop trails and pathways within the parks to connect amenities.
Continuing to make the parks safe was very high on the priority list for citizens, coming in as #3 most important value the Parks Department should focus on, with emphasis on lighting, maintenance, and cleanliness. This is an ongoing focus of the Parks Department already with many cameras added to parks with real time video being fed directly into the Police Department. So the recommendation on the master plan is to continue regular maintenance and inspections, continue open public communication, continue the fostering of partnerships, and continued planning to devise ways to continue to improve the safety in the parks.
Park signage is another recommendation of the parks master plan as presented. During the public parts of the forming of the master plan, it was discovered there are many parks in Cameron some citizens were not even aware existed. The development of a standard park sign for Cameron could improve the accessibility and visibility of Cameron’s many parks.
During the final parts of the presentation to City Council, representatives from Vireo explained one of the main features Cameron is lacking, compared to other cities of similar size, is a Community Size Park. Due to the expression of public input during the forming of the master plan and the heavy use and high demand of the Park Valley Complex in recent years, the parks master plan includes a plan for a community size park on city owned land, on the east side of Walmart. The concept for the community park includes six ball fields, playgrounds, adequate parking, playground equipment, trails connectivity, and opportunity for future parks development.
The pros of a community size park in that location include: the property is already owned by the city, the size meets the level of service the needs identified, the size will accommodate priority amenity needs, has good accessibility to support events, and utilities are already installed. The largest con to such a plan is the grading necessary for flat fields will be significant. The parcel of land is approximately 52 acres which is the remaining land in the Crossroads Corporate Park.
The Park Board asked the City Council to adopt the master plan as presented, to incorporate the Parks Master Plan as part of the City of Cameron 2030 Comprehensive Plan, and if the Council concurs to transfer the acreage near Walmart to the Park Board for development of future park ground.
The complete master plan is available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kV9Gm_Uh1wDthMwV05nHVJzuBB_RPCRo.
Councilman Dennis Clark expressed his support of the Parks Master Plan, including his support of the plan to turn the city owned land near Walmart over to the Parks Department for future development.
Mayor Darlene Breckenridge expressed her biggest concern being the way to fund it. She expressed her support of the parks, but said funding would be an ongoing concern.
Councilman John Feighert expressed his support of comprehensive plan, but also expressed his concern about once the projects begin and get built, how are they going to maintain and pay for that maintenance moving forward. Councilman Feighert also asked if the Parks Department was prepared, as part of this master plan, to take on responsibility for the trails, which is not currently under the purview of the parks department. Bontrager said although the trails and reservoirs do figure into some of the City of Cameron amenities, it is not the plan of the Park Board to take over the trails.
The discussion and possible adoption of the Parks Master Plan will continue at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday January 16 at 6 p.m. The next meeting of the Park Board will be January 25 at 6 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public and have time for public participation.