After the completion of several recent projects at Northam Park, the city is preparing to set a 10-year path for each of its parks and is asking for residents to weigh in.
In response to residents who opposed plans for a sweeping $14-million redevelopment of Northam Park, its athletics fields, tennis courts and drainage system, Upper Arlington City Council opted in January 2016 to move forward with a smaller-scale project to rebuild Tremont Pool and the park's playground, as well as to construct a reading garden outside Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch.
Those finished projects, at a cost of approximately $5.6 million, were unveiled this summer, and now city officials are eyeing potential changes to other parks facilities, as well a review of services and programs the Upper Arlington Parks & Recreation Department provides.
A "comprehensive review" of the department began July 19, when the city distributed questionnaires related to parks facilities and parks and rec services and programs at the unveiling of Northam's new playground and reading garden.
The city will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Amelita Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park, 4395 Carriage Hill Lane.
The city also is soliciting parks and rec input for the review via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents may provide comments throughout the process at tinyurl.com/uaenewsletter.
PROS Consulting, which has been hired for $108,762, including a 10 percent contingency, will help collect and disseminate information throughout the process, which is expected to take nine to 12 months, according to Upper Arlington Parks & Recreation Department Director Debbie McLaughlin.
"The city is conducting a comprehensive review of the Parks & Recreation Department to create a shared vision for parks, recreation programs and facilities for the next 10 years and beyond," McLaughlin said. "The plan will be based on information gathered through an extensive series of public-engagement activities, as well as a wide variety of data sources and the best practices of other communities, to help us predict trends and patterns of use, and how to address unmet needs within the city."
PROS and a team of sub-consultants -- OHM Advisors (park planning), Williams Architects (facility planning) and ETC Institute (market research) -- will assist city officials in assessing parks facilities an reviewing the department's operational and financial structures.
"The data obtained will aid in the development of an action plan that includes recommended action steps to ensure long-term success and financial sustainability for parks, recreation programs and facilities in support of the interests of the UA community," McLaughlin said. "The consultant team will use a variety of methods to assess current conditions of parks and buildings, as well as programs through community needs and interests, and department program delivery statistics.
"The assessment will include reviewing the levels of service for programs, park types and amenities."
McLaughlin said residents who attend the Sept. 19 meeting would be able to visit tables set up with information on various themes and offer suggestions in an open-house setting.
She said a survey of 350 residents would be conducted in the fall.
"Once this is complete, the survey will be open to the public on the project website," McLaughlin said. "We utilized the same process for the Northam Park design process."
The review is something Upper Arlington City Council has supported in concept over the past year, in addition to the PROS contract it has approved.
Last September, council President Debbie Johnson said she believed the study would help the city make sure its limited parks space best serves the community.
"As a landlocked community, we need to be sure to use our parks and green spaces effectively and efficiently for all members of our community," Johnson said. "Sports other than football and baseball have become popular in the last 15 to 20 years.
"We need to know what trends are there to make sure we have enough room to accommodate fields for those sports. We must also ensure that we have amenities for residents who use the parks in other ways."