Raleigh holding 'visioning sessions' for parks' future

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 12, 2013 

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TRAVIS LONG — THE NEWS & OBSERVER

  • Weigh in on Raleigh’s parks

    Here’s the schedule for a series of “visioning sessions” this week to help shape Raleigh’s parks system for the next 20 years. Each workshop will cover a separate topic and last about three hours. All events will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St. A welcome table in the lobby will provide room numbers.

    2 p.m. Monday – Outdoor adventure, sustainability

    6-8 p.m. Monday – Kick-off event with Mayor Nancy McFarlane

    1 p.m. Tuesday – Arts, natural areas, special populations

    5:30 p.m. Tuesday – Greenways and trails

    6 p.m. Tuesday – Athletic and aquatic special use venues, equity and existing parks

    1 p.m. Wednesday – Community health and fitness, urban populations and growth centers

    6 p.m. Wednesday – Historic resources, multiculturalism

    1 p.m. Thursday – Active adults, parks and transportation

    6 p.m. Thursday – Youth and teen education

    3:30-6:30 p.m. Friday – Open house with a presentation of the sessions’ findings at 5 p.m.

— Thousands of city residents have weighed in recently on the future of Raleigh’s parks system, and their priorities are beginning to emerge: more walking-distance neighborhood parks, dog parks and greenways.

The Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department is conducting an 18-month, $360,000 visioning study to map out the future of the city’s parks through the next 20 years. Back in January, the department mailed 4,000 surveys and held community meetings asking residents to rank the programs and facilities they want.

Now it’s time for the fine-tuning. This week, parks officials will hold a series of 15 “visioning sessions,” each with a different focus. The goal is for attendees to pick their areas of interest – whether that’s greenways, the arts or historic sites – and discuss how to address specific needs within them.

“We begin to ask the public how to implement this,” said parks planner Stephen Bentley. “It’s kind of a mix of business, nonprofits and citizen engagement. We’ll have a lot of maps and visual aids to show the participants.”

But first, park planners will share the results of the study’s first phases. After compiling results from surveys and meetings, as well as a review of current park conditions, the study ranked the top 10 priorities.

“Smaller neighborhood parks” tops the list. Those small-scale parks – sometimes as simple as a playground and basketball court – are more common in older, inside-the-Beltline neighborhoods. Larger parks that might require a drive dominate Raleigh’s northern reaches.

“Overwhelmingly, people wanted parks closer to their home that they could walk to,” Bentley said.

Rounding out the top five are dog parks, outdoor pools, greenway trails and tennis courts, in that order. Residents also want to see more nature parks spread evenly throughout the city, and they wanted more playgrounds designed for toddlers. Disc golf facilities also drew support.

Survey respondents said they’d like the city to partner with Wake County schools to build parks that serve students and the community. And they told officials to keep up the city’s existing 80 parks.

“People like the park system, and they want to make sure we maintain it at the level we do,” Bentley said.

Participants in this week’s visioning sessions won’t have to wait long to hear the results of the three-hour meetings. On Thursday, consultants will “stay all night” to compile the preliminary data and present the findings at an open house Friday afternoon. The formal visioning study draft report should be finished by the end of the year and go to the Raleigh City Council for approval.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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