GreenPlay sought city residents’ input in creating parks ‘roadmap for future’

A plan for the city’s parks system is being developed by a private consulting firm that made a report to the City Council during its Oct. 22 meeting.

GreenPlay LLC, is a Broomfield, Colo.-based company of former parks and recreation professionals who developed parks plans for more than 300 cities across the United States. Its employees were in Farmington the week of Oct. 21 hosting community meetings and conducting an inventory of the city’s park system.

“We want to hear from the community what their initial thoughts are,” said Cory Styron, parks, recreation and cultural affairs director for Farmington. He has been working with Pat O’Toole, project manager from GreenPlay to develop a master plan that addresses what the city can do to meet the recreational needs of the community.

“Hopefully we can give you a roadmap for the future,” O’Toole said. “We can bring trends we are seeing. Sustainability is one of the things we look at – not just financial sustainability but sustainability socially and environmentally.”

The bridge connecting Berg Park to Animas Park is a popular part of the Animas River Walk trail system in Farmington. The trails will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming Parks Plan for the city of Farmington. – Josh Bishop photo

The first step in the process was the community meetings, which included focus groups and public meetings. “We look at strengths and what needs to be improved,” O’Toole said. Next the company will look at the level of service and inventory the parks.

“From there we will put some recommendations and an action plan together,” O’Toole said. The entire process will take several months, because there also are Web-based activities to involve the public and surveys sent out to area residents seeking input about the park system.

“We want to hear what everybody has to say and bring that in with some diversity,” he explained.

The surveys will consist of input from about 400 residents, who will be selected at random by a sub-consultant hired by GreenPlay to mail out the questionnaires.

“We time it, and it is third party unbiased arms length. ….We want to know how well does your entire community feel about the quality of life here,” O’Toole said.

The Web-based option is called a Mindmixer, which is an electronic town hall that includes conversations and polling. “You can put maps on there and any ideas that come out of a forum. It extends the conversation, and you can get some high quality input,” O’Toole said, explaining that it is not a blog. “You have to sign up for it, so you know exactly who is on there.”

GreenPlay is using the Mindmixer is 150 different communities across the U.S., with the conversations customized to the area in question.

The inventory will include a look at every amenity within the park system and rate it by measuring the quality, condition, location, comfort, convenience and ambiance. Each will receive a score that is put on a map to show service gaps, alternative providers and potential partners. “We will be able to show you through meaningful maps,” O’Toole said. “The other thing we start looking at is the evaluation of funding sources, traditional and non-traditional funding. In the end it shows what you are capable to do.”

After all of the information is gathered GreenPlay will return to the Council in February or March with its findings. This will determine the accuracy of the report and from there a plan will be drafted.

“It will be visionary with implementation strategies and costs,” O’Toole said.

Mayor Tommy Roberts wanted to know if Farmington was unique in offering a cultural affairs component through its parks department.

“Yes – you name it we’ve seen it,” O’Toole said. “You are unique because a handful we’ve seen are museums. The animal shelter is a little bit of an oddity.”

Councilor Mary Fischer said she would like some new life to be breathed into the parks department. “I would like us to put a little sizzle in our community activities that have lost their fizzle. I feel like I am in the movie Groundhog Day. It is the same thing year after, year after year after year,” she said. “One of the largest problems I observe is we have wonderful recreational opportunities but no way for some kids to take advantage of them, because there is no transportation to them. These kids are just losing out simply because they can’t get there.”

The plan should be completed by May 2014.

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