01/22/13 — Parks and Recreation plan focuses on accessibility, sprucing up amenities

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Parks and Recreation plan focuses on accessibility, sprucing up amenities

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 22, 2013 1:46 PM

When the Goldsboro City Council takes a second look at the revamped Parks and Recreation Master Plan during tonight's meeting, it will be considering the future of a department working to keep pace in an industry that has seen dozens of new mandates concerning inclusion and accessibility in recent years.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said the master plan, which was put together at a bargain price by consultants with the state's Recreation Resources Service, focuses mostly on modernizing the city's parks and recreation centers for the sake of safety and meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards enacted in 2009.

The plan identifies the department's specific needs through 2017 and a vision for beyond, calling for substantial investment into accessibility, especially through sidewalks and paths among park amenities within the city's park system.

The plan was put together based on public input from more than a dozen meetings over a three-month period and calls for enhanced maintenance were prevalent, Barnard said, noting that residents asked for more flowers and more detailed landscaping.

"Folks aren't dissatisfied with the number of parks or size of the parks, they're just not maintained to the level they want. They want it to feel park-like," he said.

Barnard pointed out that parks in bigger cities boast meticulously manicured lawns and garden areas that create a relaxing environment.

The plan envisions the city investing more than $500,000 in park maintenance, renovation and development over the next five years for a total, five-year investment of a little less than $3.5 million.

Barnard said the schedule isn't rigid, but that certain enhancements, especially to make the entire park system ADA-compliant, should be prioritized.

"Eighteen months ago the ADA got teeth," he said. "It used to be guidelines, now it's legislated and with deadlines."

Not having correct playground surfacing and the lack of paths to playgrounds, bathrooms and other amenities, including Herman Park's tennis courts, are in violation of the act, he said.

After addressing those concerns, Barnard said investments into new projects -- wayfinding signage, greenways and a downtown park -- can be discussed.

Just because the plan has yet to be approved doesn't mean his staff isn't already working toward some of its goals, though, he said.

Public meetings concerning the new W.A. Foster Recreation Center will likely be held before March as the department selects a contractor and begins evaluating needs, options and prices for the center, which will be built at Mina Weil Park.

Barnard said concerns voiced by residents about the traffic impact the new center would have on House Street could possibly be remedied during the process, as some contractors have suggested a new entrance to the center and park from John Street.

The master plan was tabled during the council's Jan. 7 meeting and tonight will be discussed during the council work session, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex.