Department of Parks seeks comprehensive plan to guide next decade of recreation

With the completion of Kirksville’s new Aquatic Center this year – the city’s biggest recreational upgrade in many years – thoughts turn to what comes next. Getting there will require more groundwork.

Parks and Recreation Director Rodney Sadler met with the Lakes, Parks and Recreation Commission on Tuesday, announcing his intention to pursue a comprehensive master plan for the city’s park system.

He wants to work with an external company to carry out a full investigation of the current functioning of the parks, the improvements that can be made in the most efficient way and the future needs. It would be a more gradual approach to maintaining and improving the park. The final document would guide the city’s parks and recreation activities for the next decade.

“We’re doing it in a very reactionary way,” Sadler said. “We notice that there is a problem, we identify how to solve it, I will get a quote for it.

“We’re saying there’s a problem with any equipment, let’s say the skate park,” Sadler said. “Let’s figure out what to do, put some money in the budget and go. Instead of deciding if building a new skate park makes the most sense for our community. Or maybe we need a bigger one. actually because more people are doing it. We need to be more data-driven in how we manage fleet improvements across our department as a whole. “

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“We couldn’t have done this before sales tax (for parks and recreation), even if we wanted to. There’s no way, ”said Carolyn Cox, CRLP member. “We had to – the way we were set up – to be reactionary. Now the point is: let’s do it right. We have the resources, use them wisely.

Currently, Sadler said the capital improvement plan identifies the bathrooms in the park that are most in need of replacement, with the department then doing additional work in that park. This generally serves as a good beacon for the community. The parks department says it will improve a park and then people see it happen. But it is an arbitrary process.

With a comprehensive plan, the ministry will have a better idea of ​​the urgent needs that exist and could develop, and not just wait for something to break.

“The ultimate goal of this is that when people move to Kirksville, of course, they’re going to look at ATSU and Truman and the education system. After that, I want them to think about parks and recreation, ”Sadler said. “… We are very close to a state park and those recreational opportunities, and we also have great amenities for a city our size. An aquatic center like the one we have is great. If we could have more indoor space and more outdoor space, we can provide things that people don’t have to leave town to go and do.

The plan will look at the city’s inventory and what items need to be replaced. He will review walking and cycling trails to ensure they are in line with Kirksville’s active mobility plan. He’ll also look at the potential for better naming and signing conventions for these trails, as most are simply referenced based on a nearby landmark.

Programming needs will also be addressed. Sadler said the plan will examine programs offered by the city, the YMCA and universities, trying to identify gaps.

It will also examine where new parks might be needed in the future. Since most parks are centrally located, as the city expands, these are areas that go to a park for longer.

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One area in particular would be the future of North Park. With the school district building its own baseball and softball field, its high school teams will no longer use North Park. Perhaps there are changes the city can make to this park since its uses will be different.

“It’s also important that whatever we do, we look at what else is in the community,” said Ralph Cupelli, CRLP member. “For example, the school district is going to build a baseball and softball field. It changes the use of North Park. … Look at the whole community, where the shortages are and what the future is.

And it will put in place timelines for park improvements based on those needs. The hope is to have fewer “proposed changes” that are implemented for many years and never materialize.

Sadler will ask city council to budget $ 75,000 next year to submit to the investigation. He said that figure is close to what other cities have done for comparable work, and said the actual cost could be much lower. He considers the amount to be reasonable as it will ensure that his department will operate in the best possible way for the next decade.

“This will be our big project next year,” Sadler said. “… This will be our goal as a ministry and as the Lakes, Parks and Recreation Commission for the next year. Get good information, organize community engagement sessions, ask people, “Over the next 10 years, what will parks and recreation look like?” “

Feedback from the community will be an important factor in the process. The parks service has conducted online surveys in the past to obtain data on short-term programming needs. But having more data in bulk, along with in-person meetings and conversations, will determine what happens to the fleet system.

“It’s very difficult to show the value of a piece of paper. But once people understand that it’s their voices that are leading the charge of what we want to do, I think it will go a long way, ”Sadler said.

With the investigation set to begin early next year – if approved by city council – and to guide the parks department and LPRC for 10 years, that would go until the expiration of the sales tax on parks and recreation by half a cent in 2032.

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