West Side News

Recreation and Parks

Master planning will continue through June

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The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department has launched a master-planning process for facilities and services throughout the city.

Ten years have passed since the last update, said Alan McKnight, director of recreation and parks.

"I think it's important to get a good pulse from the community, make sure we're providing the right services and what the community wants us to provide in terms of recreational opportunities," McKnight said.

"That includes everything from park space, open space and the programming side, as well. It's not just looking at parks."

Public input is paramount to the process, he said.

Residents can weigh in at the final public meeting of the season, slated for 5:30 p.m. tonight, Dec. 5, in the Westgate Shelter House, 3271 Wicklow Road.

Others can offer their feedback online at parks.columbus.gov.

McKnight said additional public meetings will be set this spring before the final draft is submitted in June.

A team of planners, led by local firm MKSK, will be paid $299,518 for the effort.

"They'll be looking at a lot of data," McKnight said. "They'll be looking at demographics. They'll be looking at surveys."

The blueprint will not address a key issue: funding.

"The master plan doesn't tell us the funding is automatically available to help us do this, but it will help us make good decision in spending the dollars we have," McKnight said. "I want to spend the money on programs the community wants."

A lot has changed over the past decade, including an economic downturn, which led to the closing of some recreation centers and reducing operating hours at others.

All 11 have since reopened, but six still have not restored full hours.

However, in the mayor's 2014 budget proposal, those will return to normal hours, among other staffing and programming needs.

"Because of the budget there were some things that we weren't able to do," McKnight said.

One of those was building expensive new regional, or "family," recreation centers on the Northwest, West and Southeast sides that would offer a bigger footprint and updated amenities, such as pools.

"Once we have that plan we will still have to look at capital dollars and whether we can build facilities like that," McKnight said.

"But we'll have to determine whether we can sustain those operations, too."

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