SHERIDAN — Consultants hired to update the city’s parks and recreation master plan briefed community members on the process for updating the plan and began collecting feedback at a meeting Tuesday.
The city adopted its last parks and recreation master plan in 2015, but has opted to update that plan to accommodate for anticipated community growth. Though community parks and recreation may appear to be luxuries, Jolene Rieck of Peaks to Plains Design, one of the consultants the city hired to revise the master plan, said a healthy parks and recreation system is crucial for a community’s economy. She explained that parks and recreation help to attract and retain a qualified workforce.
With that in mind, Rieck said the revised master plan will focus on identifying what residents want out of their parks system in addition to the logistical concerns on which past plans have focused.
“Some of the past master plans have kind of just focused on the need of the physical inventory in the parks themselves,” Rieck said. “But our scope of work is really to look at that big picture to make sure we are identifying the opportunities and areas for improvement in all aspects of the park system.”
The bulk of the plan will be dedicated to a needs and priorities assessment, which will be based on community feedback the consultants will gather over the coming months. Rieck said the assessment will be based on both qualitative data, such as feedback collected from discussion and focus groups, and quantitative data, which will be gathered from standardized surveys.
The consultants conducted four focus groups Tuesday that were designed to collect feedback from different demographic groups within the community.
One of the focus groups was composed of residents who are 55 or older, one was composed of high school students, one was composed of people affiliated with sports organizations and the fourth group contained students from Sheridan College.
Attendees at Tuesday’s meeting also gathered in small groups to answer questions from the consultants. Rieck said Tuesday was the first of four community meetings the consultants will hold over the coming weeks.
The quantitative data will be collected through a mail survey the consultants will mail to random households in January.
Rieck also noted that the city has recently invested in land near the interchange on North Main Street, and the master plan will be used as a guide in developing that land to ensure the development meets community needs.
In addition to documenting community goals and needs, the plan will serve as an inventory of the assets in the city’s parks and recreation system and how those assets are distributed throughout the community.
The plan will then recommend a level of service to maintain those assets.
Michael Svetz of PROS Consulting, the other consultant the city hired for the project, said the object of the level of service assessment is to right-size the parks and recreation system to meet the needs of the community.
“This is a planning exercise that has major fiscal impacts on the community,” Svetz said.
He explained that having too large a system would mean the city is expending unnecessary resources on parks and recreation maintenance, but if the system is too small, and parks and recreation facilities are not maintained properly, the city will need to make costly repairs or infrastructure replacements down the road.
The final section of the plan will detail a strategic plan for meeting the community’s needs and goals.
Though the last master plan was only three years ago, Svetz said the consultants aim to produce a more comprehensive plan this time around that will last the city at least 10 years.