Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Roanoke moves toward enhancing neighborhood parks

Greenways and Walking trails.

Greenways and Walking trails.

There has been a shift in Roanoke City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan  – from closing down neighborhood recreation centers to enhancing them. A similar strategy came about with the Library Master Plan.

Land was purchased for a “super” library on Peters Creek Road. That project has been abandon. The 11-acre parcel on Peters Creek Road near the Cove Road intersection was purchased by former city manager Darlene Burcham for $795,000 in October of 2009. That has changed with upgrading and adding to existing libraries now.

The Parks and Recreation Plan of old focused on large regional “Green Ridge type” mega recreation centers. There was  a  separate study done by Leon Younger, President of PROS Consulting. In 2007 he was asked to come up with plans for  a mega recreation complex at Riverside with an amphitheater, streams meandering through where kayaks could run the rapids, climbing walls and botanical gardens and more. That was about a $50 million dollar project that was quickly dismissed.

Where to put the amphitheater after Victory Stadium was torn down went on for years. Visions of grandeur and/or sugarplums danced in city councils heads and money grew on trees back then.

At the conclusion of workshops in 2006-2007 it was revealed that those who attended only counted as one third. Another third was a “formula” and the other third was a phone survey. The outcome of these master plans are influenced “somewhat” by those that show up. But it is really more about “what’s hot and what’s not” in the recreation world as seen by a consultant and Parks and Rec.

Not that changing course is a bad idea but emphasis should be on what ALL citizens will use and not just those with special wants and a council that has made or insinuated sugary promises in campaigns.

For this 5-10 year master plan expectations of citizens have been dampened. Besides putting heavy emphasis on neighborhood parks citizens are asking for access points to the Roanoke River, turf sports fields and maintenance and upgrades to current parks and facilities.

Five years ago presentations emphasized a water park similar to Roanoke County’s Green Ridge Recreation Center in north Roanoke that was to be located at Fallon Park. Councilman Dave Trinkle wanted to see a competition pool there too and still mulled one over at Monday’s council meeting. In addition Washington Park pool was to have a redo. Any of those visions won’t come to past any earlier than 2017.

Assistant city manager Brian Townsend sort of “rained” on council’s parade Monday making it clear that the city has minimal Parks and Recreation money to do anything major. City council members began to go down the “visions of sugarplums” road again forgetting that the city’s debt policy is maxed out until at least 2016. There’s libraries and fire stations and a culvert for passenger rail on the CIP priority menu.

Leon Younger pointed out how far behind Roanoke City is in its recreation needs especially when it comes to indoor facilities for basketball, swimming and neighborhood centers. Former city manager Darlene Burcham wanted to close the neighborhood centers. Buschor wanted a regional water park facility at Washington Park and mentioned that again at Monday’s council meeting. He repeated the disbelieved number of regional visitors he pegged at 52,000 and that maintenance and operation of the facility would pay for itself though this time he said it would cover about 70%.

Younger and Buschor said more would be possible if there could be sharing of facilities with Roanoke City Public Schools. The RCPS school board has resisted usage of their facilities by citizens fearing damage and expense.

A rapid aging trend is expected for Roanoke city with the active adult (55+ population) growing from 24.9% in 2000 to 35.1% by 2025. Recreation development should take on a multi-generational direction stressed Younger and Buschor.

Ironically golf was on the top list of recreational activities for males. It ranked 8th for females. The city-owned $5 million Countryside Golf Course was closed in 2010. A $1.5 million park is in progress as is a sports complex.

The new Parks and Recreation Plan was incorporated into the city’s Vision 2001-2020 Plan on Monday.

Sixty percent of the conclusions came from a survey and 40% came from focus groups, public input and demographic trends per Mr. Younger. Parks and Recreation Department director Steve Buschor said they will present a conservative list of projects with their limited funds at the August council meeting.

To see details of the presentation CLICK HERE.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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