City officials are beginning to map a 10-year strategy for Upper Arlington's parks and recreation facilities and programs after completion of a comprehensive review.

At several public outreach workshops last month, department officials unveiled what they called "key findings" from an ongoing review of the parks system and programming by PROS Consulting Inc., based in Indianapolis.

The city contracted with PROS Consulting for $98,875 to help guide the review and offer recommendations for achieving its findings.

"PROS Consulting is now working to develop its recommendations and implementation strategies, and to start drafting the final report," said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington's community-affairs director. "When this phase is nearing completion, there will be another round of community engagement to share those recommendations.

"We don't yet have a set timeline on when this will be, but it will likely be late summer or early fall, I believe."

There were 2,427 respondents to a survey about the city's parks and programming.

Most, 69 percent, said they had visited Northam Park in the past year, followed by Thompson Park (54 percent), Fancyburg Park (51 percent) and Sunny 95 Park (35 percent).

The three parks or facilities that were used the least were Devon Pool (8 percent), the Upper Arlington Senior Center (8 percent) and the Northam Park tennis courts (4 percent).

When asked if they are satisfied with the value of parks and rec programs, 45 percent of respondents said they were "very satisfied" and 34 percent were "somewhat satisfied." Three percent were "somewhat dissatisfied" and 1 percent were "very dissatisfied."

When asked to rate the programming itself, 58 percent of respondents said the city's parks programs are "good," while 32 percent said they were "excellent," 7 percent rated them as "fair" and 3 percent ranked them as "poor."

While 47 percent rated neighborhood parks as being the most important parks and rec offering, walking and biking trails came in second at 43 percent.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said indoor fitness and exercise facilities were most important.

Indoor fitness facilities also ranked as the community's top "unmet need," according to 57 percent of respondents. Another 48 percent said an indoor running/walking track is an unmet need and 47 percent said an indoor aquatics facility is an unmet need.

When asked about "investment priorities," 64 percent of respondents were "very supportive" of exploring the feasibility of an indoor recreation facility.

Only 36 percent were in favor of replacing the senior center with "older adult programming space." Another 41 percent were "unsupportive" of such a move.

"Throughout the community engagement phases, residents expressed their desire for indoor recreation space that would serve all ages," Parks and Recreation Department director Debbie McLaughlin said. "The statistically valid survey in particular affirms that sentiment.

"This tells us that the interest is there, but it is not a foregone conclusion that the city should proceed with such a facility," she said. "Issues of location, facility size and programming, costs and how it would be paid for, operational considerations, and then determining the level of community support once those details were better known, would all require detailed exploration through a feasibility study."

McLaughlin said the review and planning process is vital to guiding future decisions.

"There's a strong desire for us to preserve and maintain neighborhood and community parks, to expand walking/bicycle connectivity within the parks and to the parks," she said.

McLaughlin said additional public input will be sought as PROS Consulting continues its work.

"PROS Consulting will shift its focus to crafting a draft report that will include recommendations and strategies for implementation," she said. "We anticipate bringing this draft document back to the community for one final round of feedback in the summer."

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