Parks survey reveals community would like to see Robron Park as top city parks priority

A recent city parks survey reveals the community would most like to see the completion of Robron Park and that residents are willing to pay a tax to maintain community parks.

As a follow up to the city’s Strategic Parks Plan which was conducted in 2006 by consulting firm HB Lanarc, a self-selected survey of the community was conducted online and in paper form between Oct. 10-22.

David Reid of HB Lanarc said the firm received 644 responses, compared with 390 to a similar survey in 2006.

“For a community of 30,000 this is an absolutely extraordinary response,” Reid said.

What came out of the survey was an indication of how valuable the parks system is to the community and which areas in particular the public wants to see developed.

The number one priority was Robron Park which, since the Parks Plan was created six years ago, has new tennis courts, a new playground and an outdoor lacrosse box.

Further upgrades are expected to include new bleachers and trails, an artificial or all weather playing field, utilities and drainage improvements, and upgrades to the parking lots along both Merecroft and South Birch.

Council had budgeted for the improvements in November of last year, but when the new council took over, the project was scratched during 2012 budget planning because of its $1.4 million price tag.

But despite the high cost, Reid said it was clear from the survey (which was not statistically valid because it was self-selected) that from the public’s perspective “the priority seems to be to develop Robron”.

Waterfront improvements such as Maritime Heritage Park and the public boat ramps were also a high priority for the community as was the splash park and Centennial Park improvements.

Second priority projects were irrigation upgrades, green shores, completing the SeaWalk from Maryland to Jubilee, and improving Robert Ostler Park in the downtown core.

Third priority was given to dog park development, an entrance sign program, and a parks information program.

Last on the list was a Nunns Creek Park master plan and improvements, Georgia Park expansion, an Urban Forest Management Plan, and the Walter Morgan Studio restoration.

The survey also revealed that tax payers are willing to put up the money for  these projects.

A total of 256 respondents support paying a $50 per year Parks Parcel Tax, as was established in 2006.

This year, however, council reduced the Parks Parcel Tax to $25 for 2012 to help offset a 13.6 per cent property tax increase.

“It seems from our respondents that there’s an ongoing public willingness to dedicate funds to parks and to focus the Parks Parcel Tax on facility improvements in the medium term,” Reid said. “The great majority is interested in $50 or $75 a year.”

Reid said Lanarc’s recommendation is for council to set the Parks Parcel Tax at $50 each year until 2015 when it should be raised to $60, the only way council will be able to in the future operate in the black without cutting programs.

Reid noted that since the Parks Parcel Tax was established, the city has completed more than $7 million in projects, with $3.5 million coming from the Parks Parcel Tax and $4.2 million coming from grants and other sources.

Since 2006 when the Parks Plan was created, council has replaced 12 playgrounds and added two more, installed ten washrooms, upgraded eight ball fields, completed Dick Murphy, Larwood, and Penfield West Linear parks, improved the sand volleyball courts and added two more at the Sporstplex, built a new skate park, built the lacrosse box at Robron Park, and completed the Jubilee Trail section of the Greenways Loop.


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