Parks group wants its own strategic plan

Posted: October 24, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department is working to develop its first-ever strategic plan, and local residents can still give their input on the document’s draft form.

The plan is designed to help the department realize and implement its mission statement, said Jon Turkel, the group’s Parks and Stewardship Planner, in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

The department’s mission statement charges it with “promoting and providing quality parks and recreational facilities, programs and leisure opportunities.”

Parks and Recreation has previously used Frederick County’s Comprehensive Plan as its “guiding document,” but the department wanted to use a shorter-term, more focused perspective to determine its goals, Turkel said.

“[The plan’s idea] revolved around making sure we were in line with the opinions and sentiment of the community and putting that together in something that has relevance for [our] day-to-day actions,” he said. “The strategic plan lines up with our mission statement. What the purpose of the strategic plan is to get us focused on meeting our mission.”

Some of the goals listed in the draft plan include identifying and securing funding to support department projects; developing new and improving existing facilities; increasing public awareness of the Parks and Recreation Department; and increasing various programs’ attractiveness to the public.

“We understand that we have these broad objectives, and what we need to do is find out how to act on them in the short term, identify challenges and [ways] to address those [challenges],” Turkel said.

Those challenges include funding projects the community might want and dealing with the county’s changing demographics.

Using U.S. Census data, the draft states that the county’s population could increase by 22 percent, or approximately 17,500 residents, by 2020 and that the park system would have to account for that increased population.

“The funding challenges are really driven by the needs of the community, the community expressing needs for facilities,” Turkel said. “Another challenge is demographics shifts that will direct actions in the near-term.”

Turkel added that there has been a great deal of community input to get the plan to its draft stage, including a community survey, and that citizens can still give their opinions on the plan until mid-November.

The department randomly selected 1,800 households to mail surveys to in the county in February and March, and 395 have been returned. The No. 1 desire of those respondents was for an increase in multi-use recreation trails, which are ones that can be used for bicycling, walking and other activities.

The public can view the draft plan and submit comments online at www.co.frederick.va.us/parks/strategicplan.aspx. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 16.

Turkel said the plan likely will go to the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Commission at its December meeting for review and approval and that it could go to the county’s Board of Supervisors for adoption in January.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com