North Raleigh News

Seniors, young residents drive parks plan in Wake Forest

The town’s parks, recreation and cultural resources department knows two things: Families will continue to move to Wake Forest, and residents will continue to age.

So activities for children and seniors are front and center as the town develops a new master plan that will guide parks planning for the next decade.

Some residents who took an online survey said they want Wake Forest to build an additional water facility and provide more activities for seniors.

The town’s parks department has been gathering information through public meetings and surveys to figure out what to include in its new master plan. The current plan expires in May.

As the town develops a new plan, officials must consider how quickly Wake Forest is growing, said Ruben Wall, parks and recreation director.

In 2005, when the town created the current plan, Wake Forest’s projected population in 2015 was about 28,000, Wall said. The current population is closer to 36,000.

“Growth is one of the big (considerations),” Wall said. “Keeping up with the growth and trying to project what’s going to be needed.”

The town has brought in an outside consulting firm, GreenPlay, to help identify what amenities are needed, where they are needed and who would use them.

But Wall said town leaders know the youngest and oldest residents of Wake Forest will always be large population groups that need to be considered.

In the 2005 master plan, children and seniors were noted as groups that would require programming, buildings and other amenities. As the plan was carried out, though, some of the focus on seniors fell away as other projects that centered around physical activity were completed.

Over the past 10 years, the town entered into an agreement with the Wake County school system to build ball fields and other courts at Heritage High School. The town completed the first phase of Joyner Park. The plan also called for amenities like shelters and playgrounds at some town-operated parks.

As part of the bond measure Wake Forest voters approved Nov. 4, the town plans to expand the Northern Senior Center. But Wall said the town knows seniors expect more than that.

“What we’re seeing now is when the mom and dad move with the children, grandparents move too,” Wall said. “We’re seeing a large number of seniors coming into the area, and they want programs and they want activities.”

The Northern Senior Center’s building is owned by the town, but an outside company runs the operations. The town has no control over its programming.

For younger generations, Wall said the town is gathering more information to see what kind of water facility might be the best fit.

He said the town has looked at things like a water spray feature or small water park.

“Water features don’t always mean a pool,” Wall said.

Over the summer, the town’s only pool saw more than 17,000 guests. It’s hard to schedule pool programming and still have space for free swimming, Wall said.

An online idea-sharing site the town is using has been gathering votes to determine what kind of aquatic facility residents want. They can pick from competitive swimming pools or things like a water spray feature.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Wall said. “Our pool might not be able to accommodate the growth (of the town).”

Parts of the future master plan will be funded by the bond referendum passed earlier this month. The second phase of Joyner Park is also a financial priority and will be funded by the referendum, Wall said.

Other projects, which would be part of the new master plan, may also be funded by the referendum.