Parks master plan leads list of capital requests at Parks Dept.

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Ten Year Capital Improvement and Strategic Planning Committee held a special meeting on Tuesday, June 25, and heard an update from superintendent of parks, Joshua Medeiros.

Three items were approved by the Capital Improvement Committee for the Parks and Recreation Department; the creation of a master plan ($150,000), the paving of the Memorial Boulevard ($350,000), and improvements to Page Park ($400,000).

Medeiros explained that the last master plan created for the city’s network of park land was made in 2004. Typically, he said, plans of this nature are created every 10 years. He said he has been working with city purchasing agent, Roger Rousseau, to create a request for proposal, which would consist of many of the goals and objectives outlined in the master plan.

“Whatever firm we go with on this is going to build on what’s already been done,” said Medeiros. “Many of the things in the old plan still need to get done so instead of recreating the wheel, they’re going to build on that.”

One goal, he explained, is “a really comprehensive community engagement piece,” which is essentially to a master plan. Medeiros said he’s looking for a firm that will “help engage neighborhood focus groups, discussions, and surveys, in order to “capture all of the information so we can make the best decisions based on what we are hearing.”

The Parks and Recreation Department also will be looking for in-depth analysis of all parks, with extra attention on Page Park. The superintendent explained that Page Park has a lot of issues, including those related to parking and drainage. He said Page Park will be examined for renovations similar to what had previously been done at Rockwell Park.

“They [the selected firm] are going to inventory all of our city assets and compare them to national standards, meaning, for a city of our size and demographic makeup, how many basketball courts should we have?” said Medeiros. “So, they’re going to benchmark those against national standards, so we can see where are our deficiencies.”

Medeiros said he will be asking the firm to identify ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] related issues. “Many of our facilities, as I’m learning, are not fully accessible, and while we are grandfathered in, part of the mission of Parks and Rec is to allow equitable access to everyone, so that’s going to be a big priority,” he said.

Currently, Medeiros is working with Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu to establish a steering committee, which would work with the superintendent on ranking RFPs and making sure “all the stakeholders have a seat at the table.” Medeiros said the key members of the committee will be Parks and Recreation department staff, members of the park board, and community members.

“We want to better understand the community needs, which is going help shape our future budget requests – we’re going look at everything from programs to facility needs, we’re going look at trends current and future, we’re going try to capture costs better in areas in deferred maintenance, prioritizing projects and things like that,” said Medeiros. “We’re just going to try to be more methodical about it, and this plan is going to help us prioritize what that will look like, which will help in our 10-year capital planning.”