The future of Canal Winchester's parks system will be designed -- at least in part -- by residents who are helping consultants draft a master plan that's expected to guide development in the coming years.

The city hosted an open forum Sept. 19 at the Francis Steube Community Center, where residents had a chance to share ideas with consultant OMH Advisors, a Columbus firm that provides architecture, engineering and planning services.

Canal Winchester City Council budgeted $30,000 for parks planning this year, according to Mayor Michael Ebert.

"We're kind of at the information-gathering stage," OMH Advisors consultant Rick Fay said. "We're trying to understand what the residents want and what they see in their parks and what they think about the status of them."

The company is working with a city steering committee to deliver the first draft of a master plan in November. The two goals are to identify short-term maintenance that can be improved from a facilities standpoint and to identify long-term needs and wants in the park system, according to Fay.

"The goal is to have a running list of priorities the city can use, so when funding becomes available, they have a priorities list they can go to," he said.

Residents also have been asked to complete a survey, which has been mailed and is available on the city's website at canalwinchester.org. Among other things, the survey asks respondents their ages, if they have children and what they like about the parks now -- trails and bike paths, passive spaces, recreation facilities or programs and events.

"We want to know what they want to see in their parks and what they like to do," Ebert said. "What do they want and where do they want it?"

Currently, the Canal Winchester Department of Public Service operates and maintains 225 acres of public parkland and nearly 5 miles of multiuse paths, in collaboration with the Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District, which offers youth sports programs.

The city's facilities include the Frances Steube Community Center; the municipal pool; Hanners, Stradely and Guiler parks; Howe Pond; Kelley Preserve; Walnut Creek; and space at the Villages of Westchester.

Last month, the city finalized plans to purchase 87 acres at 6725 Lithopolis-Winchester Road it's now calling McGill Park for more than $775,000. The plan is to convert the land into recreational fields, tennis courts and small playgrounds.

Residents have expressed a desire for more athletics fields, basketball courts, skate parks and the extension of trails into existing neighborhoods, Fay said. They've also expressed interest in additional preservation areas, nature trails and an event center for weddings and other occasions.

"Residential participation in the process is critically important," he said. "We really appreciate the feedback that has come from the meetings and being able to check in with (residents).That kind of insight is hugely important to us."

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