SHERIDAN — Local residents are largely satisfied with Sheridan’s parks and recreation opportunities and want the city to focus on enhancing, rather than revamping, its existing system, according to the consultants assisting the city with its Parks and Recreation Master Plan update.
“You have an incredible park system that people use, that people experience and very much meets their needs,” said Michael Svetz, a principal with PROS Consulting. “It’s why they’re not asking for a lot of bright, new, shiny stuff — they’re asking you to take care of what you already have and expand on what you’re already doing.”
Svetz and Jolene Rieck, owner of Peaks and Plains Design, presented the results of a community needs assessment and offered draft recommendations for the city’s update of its Parks and Recreation Master Plan to members of Sheridan City Council and city staff Thursday.
The two consultants began soliciting community feedback on Sheridan’s parks and recreation system in the fall and developed their needs assessment based on discussions with community members in focus groups and community meetings and a standardized survey that was randomly mailed to Sheridan households and available upon request.
Based on that assessment, the two consultants developed a list of recommendations centered on broadening access to Sheridan’s current parks and recreation opportunities.
Because Sheridan’s existing parks and recreation system is popular, it can also get crowded, the consultants noted. Without expansion of the current services, that crowding is likely to grow worse, as census data suggests Sheridan’s population will continue to grow over the next five years.
Rieck suggested the city could explore strategies to extend park hours in order to alleviate crowds during the parks’ peak hours — which she said were from 4 p.m. until dark — and continue to add to its trails system.
She added, though, that expanding access to Sheridan’s Parks and Recreation system would likely require the city to renovate existing infrastructure.
Public support for renovating Kendrick Pool was “off the charts,” Svetz said, with 71 percent of survey respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing that the pool should be rebuilt.
“It’s a historical institution in your community and it is just very much valued and people have a lot of memories around it,” Svetz said.
The consultants also recommended the city develop a strategy to invest in athletic fields in the city, as many of the current recreational fields are old. The concern over athletic fields is exacerbated, Rieck said, by the lack of certainty regarding the future of the fields at Sheridan College, which the college has considered removing in order to build more student housing.
In developing that strategy, the consultants said city officials would have to weigh the impact of investing in the city’s existing fields against projects like the proposed Doubleday Sports Complex, which would contain several new recreational fields. The consultants did not advocate for either option, however.
In addition to recommendations based on public feedback, the consultants’ report also suggested strategies the city can use to stay on top of the maintenance of its parks and recreation system, including establishing a detailed capital improvements program. Timely maintenance, the consultants said, would save the city money in the long-run, as it would stave off the major repairs that would likely be required if the city’s assets are allowed to deteriorate.
The recommendations the consultants delivered on Thursday were only a first draft. Rieck said she and Svetz would continue to make tweaks to their report over the next month. Sheridan Community Development Director Brian Craig said he anticipated the consultants’ final report would go before city council for acceptance in early July.