In March, city officials plan to share the results of what will be a roughly nine-month study to develop a "road map" for recreation programming and potential upgrades to amenities and facilities at Upper Arlington's parks.
Last June, the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department launched a project intended to provide a sweeping review of its parks system, complete with resident input on how best to shape city parks and recreation programs.
The review objective initially was announced at the outset of 2016, as Upper Arlington City Council focused in on how best to rebuild Tremont Pool and bring other upgrades to Northam Park.
Now, the comprehensive plan process is backed by PROS Consulting, which is being paid $98,875 to assess the current condition of the city's parks, their facilities, programs, services and operating structure.
The company also is collecting public feedback through interviews with park users and focus groups, an online questionnaire, a public meeting and a random survey of Upper Arlington households.
"Over 1,000 participations have been logged through these public engagement processes," said Debbie McLaughlin, director of the city's parks and recreation department. "The consultant team has also been undertaking an extensive assessment of parks, recreation facilities, recreation programs, as well as a collection of department planning, operating and statistical information."
McLaughlin said a summary of the data collected is expected to be available by the end of March and will be presented to City Council, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and at a public meeting where residents can comment on the findings.
Then a draft plan for moving forward will be developed and another opportunity for public input will be provided before the plan is finalized and official recommendations are sent to council, possibly by early summer.
"The city is conducting this process to better understand the extent and condition of our current parks system, benchmark these facilities and programs against other communities and consider recreation trends, while also seeking input from our residents about their satisfaction with current amenities and services," McLaughlin said. "(It's also) to inventory their wants and needs for possible improvement to the system."
City officials hope the plan will serve as a guidebook for how changes at each park will affect each other, and how programming and activities provided at each park and park facility should be adjusted.
It's being designed, they have said, to lead the department's focus for the next 10-plus years.
"There's been quite a bit of interest so far," said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington community affairs director. "It's been a pretty good engagement level."
Thus far, McLaughlin said initial public input has offered more wants and needs for the parks and their facilities than the city has land or resources to fulfill.
She said the random survey, which is being mailed this month to up to 2,500 households, will help gauge whether any themes are emerging between active parks and recreation users and the broader community.
"By doing this, the recommendations that emerge from this process will be a reflection of what our community as a whole would like to see occur within the system," she said.
The city plans to implement changes based on action plans laid out in the final plan document, some of which will be programmed into a 10-year capital improvement plan.
"The plan will provide a tool for staff to update residents and council as plans for improvements are prepared in greater detail in readiness for implementation, and to provide a regular report on the progress made as the recommendations are implemented," McLaughlin said.
"We are optimistic that the resulting plan will provide us with an achievable road map for making much-needed improvements to our parks and facilities and the services we provide our residents."