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A revision to Roanoke’s rec plan includes things residents want for their parks and community centers.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
In July 2007, Roanoke City Council adopted a Parks and Recreation Master Plan to act as a guide in building what the public said it wanted: more greenways, an amphitheater, more and better fields, an aquatic center. City residents then wanted more, bigger things, even a recreation center like the one Roanoke County planned for Green Ridge.
It was a grand plan that did not envision a national recession crimping Roanoke’s capital investment ability, nor did it anticipate changes that would come from the deep recession (curtailing of hours at community centers, even the closing of some) or of economic development opportunities council took that had implications for Parks & Rec (Countryside and Huff Lane, for example).
Yet Roanoke was able to place check marks next to some big-ticket items: Renovations to Elmwood Park with a new amphitheater are nearly finished, and miles more of the Roanoke River Greenway were added. So it’s time to look at what remains in the master plan and check with the people who use the city’s facilities to see what it is they like and what they’d like to change.
That process has been taking place for some time now, and the revisions are ready for city council’s approval, following a public hearing scheduled for Monday evening.
Parks & Rec learned a few new things this time. People love the greenways and trails and want smaller spurs connecting their neighborhoods to the longer pieces. And now that the river is viewable, they want more access to get in for wading, fishing, kayaking. Residents also now say they like the small, more intimate neighborhood parks and centers, only they’d like them to be nicer, better maintained and updated. No small challenge for a rec department with 60-plus buildings, and all but the Discovery Center built before 1965.
With wants always exceeding needs, the update allows the department to take inventory and determine which buildings and which areas of the city it could better serve. The plan calls for replacing the centers at Norwich and Fallon parks and adding space to those at Eureka and Preston parks. Also, it suggests turning the Garden City Center into an arts center and closing Grandin Court Center, moves likely to upset those with ties to the centers. But alternatives could be found to host programs. The city could, for example, look to partner with the school system so that school gyms could be used off hours to host rec programs.
But just because these things are in the plan does not mean they will happen, or happen quickly. The chance for public input does not close with Monday’s hearing.
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