Council briefed on city parks and recreation department plans
As 2016 gets underway, Charlottesville’s parks and recreation director told the City Council that it soon will be time to take inventory of the city’s resources in order to plan for the future.
“One of the things to do in this calendar year is to investigate some options to update the 2006 parks and recreation needs assessment, which is now 10 years old,” Brian Daly said at last week’s council meeting.
That document eventually resulted in a blueprint to guide the city’s investment in parks infrastructure.
Since then, a master plan was created for most city parks and a strategy was adopted to update city swimming pools.
“We continue through our budget process and our internal reviews to review our offerings and operations on a regular basis to ensure efficient and quality service delivery in all that we’re doing,” Daly said.
Among other things, the 2006 needs assessment informed the decision to renovate the Carver Recreation Center at the Jefferson School City Center. The facility, which reopened in January 2013, had an attendance of 119,175 in fiscal year 2015.
Last summer, the city opened a disc golf course at the new Meadow Creek Valley Park in partnership with the Blue Ridge Disc Golf Club.
“That provided us with significant financial support, as well as elbow grease,” Daly said.
Park improvements made in the past two years include new community garden plots at Rives Park, a new dog park and picnic shelter at Azalea Park and a new surface for the basketball courts at Tonsler Park.
Daly said the next step at Tonsler is to take public input for a new sprayground similar to the ones at Belmont, Forest Hills and Greenleaf parks.
“We will be holding a series of public engagement sessions at Tonsler Park over the next few months,” Daly said.
Work is now underway to build new infrastructure on the eastern side of McIntire Park now that the golf course has permanently closed.
Daly said he is hoping to soon have final approval to construct a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to connect both sides of the park.
He also said the department continues to plan for new trails at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. The opening of new trails for mountain bikes was delayed last fall after some residents complained the process had not been open to all stakeholders.
“We’re working through a sequence of how we need to conduct the planning process for the location of the trails and the use upon them,” Daly said. “We would hope to finalize that process and publicize it in the next few weeks with specific dates for when public meetings will be held.”
Doug Ehman, parks division manager, said field work to take an inventory of flora and fauna will be conducted in April.
“We should get a report in the May timeframe and adjust things we have done in the planning process based on that environmental assessment,” Ehman said, adding that the council probably will be asked to make a decision on the trails over the summer.
The 2006 needs assessment also directed city decisions on new pools.
A new Smith Aquatics Center was built at Buford Middle School in the footprint of an older facility. A new outdoor pool opened at Meade Park in 2009.
Construction is now underway on the Brooks Family YMCA in McIntire Park. The council decided in 2007 to invest in that facility rather than rebuild Crow Pool. That facility will be closed once the YMCA opens.
Councilors appeared willing to support Councilor Kristin Szakos’ request that a block of time be created at Smith Aquatic Center to allow for single-sex swimming times.
“A lot of women from traditions where they can’t be exposed in front of men can’t use our public facilities because they’re always co-ed,” Szakos said. “It’s not just people from those traditions but it’s a time when women can get together and enjoy that.”
Three other councilors said they would support that initiative and staff was asked to come back with an estimate on how much that would cost.
The parks division had $3.5 million in expenditures in FY 2015 and collected $78,566 in revenue generated by new city cemetery plots, picnic shelters and through the leasing of Davis Field to the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville Albemarle.
“We’ve planted over 1,300 trees since 2010 and this winter we’ll be planting about 160,” said Ehman.
Ehman said the city also has added 134 acres of new parkland since 2009.
The recreation division had $4.6 million in expenditures in FY 2015 with $1.6 million in revenue coming from fees paid for use of city facilities.