Community

Long-term plan includes creating city parks department

The city recently released a draft of a comprehensive parks plan meant to be a “road map” for the future, development director James Weaver said.

The document — well over 100 pages — includes analysis of the current city parks, results from an online parks survey, recommendations for short-term improvements, and a 20-year plan for renovations and upgrades.

Weaver called the 2011 parks plan “all-encompassing.”

“The plan is the most thorough analysis of the city’s parks and recreation opportunities we’ve ever done,” he said.

The plan goes as far as to outline polices on how to name park facilities, has information on where to place monuments, and guidelines on establishing an interwoven system of walking trails.

Also included in the document is the recommendation for creating a parks department appointed by the mayor, with money from the city budget allocated to pay a director and staff. Park decisions are currently recommended to the City Council by a parks plan subcommittee and the city Planning Department.

A department dedicated to the constant improvement, management, funding and maintenance of the parks would benefit the city in a number of ways, the comprehensive park plan states.

Given current budget restraints, Weaver said the development of a city Parks and Recreation department is a little ways off. However, he said Councilman Fred Olin has recently shown support for a volunteer city parks commission, potentially laying the groundwork for an eventual director.

Amy Miller, a member of the city parks plan subcommittee, said she would support a move toward a permanent parks and recreation presence.

“I think it would be great for the city,” she said. “We need a group of people dedicated to looking after the parks full-time.”

The draft establishes a combined service standard for neighborhood and community parks of 8.6 acres of parkland per 1,000 people. This number is in line with the state average, and is a ratio the city would like to stick with moving forward.

But as the city is expected to double in population within the next two decades, the need for parks development will increase exponentially, the plan states. As the city grows, the 487 public and private acres that currently make up the overall service will be greatly outstretched.

The desire for a comprehensive plan came about in part through Port Orchard’s recent annexations. The parks plan was modeled after plans in Shoreline, Poulsbo and Port Townsend, cities with populations like Port Orchard should expect in the future.

Weaver was clear to state that the parks plan, which he will present to the City Council in late January, is in no way binding, and that the city’s parks could move forward in a number of ways.

In the short term, he sees the council sticking with the current rotating approach to park improvements, with Givens Park slated for improvement in 2012. The park will get additional playground equipment next year.

Comments on the park plan can be emailed to planning@cityofportorchard.us.

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