Residents will get to weigh in on parks

Posted: June 25, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Later this year, residents will have a chance to weigh in on improvements they’d like to see at city parks, the Winchester Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was told Monday night.

Thomas Jones, facilities and events coordinator for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, told board members at their monthly meeting that the survey results will be used to formulate the master plan for parks for the next five years. The department is beginning to update that plan.

The draft survey he provided includes questions such as which parks the survey participant uses, how often he uses them, what park facilities does he most use, and what new amenities would he find most useful.

Once finalized, Jones said, the survey will be available online at surveymonkey.com. The website compiles results for its users.

The city has allocated $20,000 in its fiscal year 2014 budget for contract work on the update. Jones said that won’t pay for a lot of assistance, so much of the work will be done by staff members.

“We want to see what a consultant will do for $20,000,” he said. “The renderings (of ideas) will be the most important part, and they can be costly.”

Lisa Hamaker, the department’s interim director, told board members that suggested questions should be emailed to Jones before the board’s next meeting.

Board members also were told that the department plans to open the War Memorial Building 30 minutes later beginning in August.

An average of six people — usually the same six swimmers and racquetball players — use facilities at the building between 5:30 and 6 a.m. most days, Hamaker said. Changing the opening time to 6 a.m. would save $3,100 annually.

Some board members, however, expressed concern that users would opt to find someplace else to work out or play.

Board Chairman Krista Farris wondered if opening at 5 a.m. might boost membership and morning facility use.

Hamaker said the change could be reassessed if a significant number of users were upset by it.

Individual membership fees range from $144 for an annual membership for city residents who are senior citizens or children, to $504 a year for a nonresident adult paying the $42 monthly fee.

Board members also were briefed on highlights of the fiscal year 2014 budget for the park system.

The two big-ticket items, Hamaker said, are $200,000 as partial funding for artificial turf for Bridgeforth Field and $150,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act improvements at the field.

The artificial turf at Bridgeforth was requested by two major user groups — Shenandoah University and Handley High School. She said the request was made because the field often is in rough shape when the teams begin practice in late winter, and both users have equipment that can be used for field maintenance.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Krista Farris, Vice-Chairman John Bentley and board members Jules Bacha, John Elliott, Kyle Homan, Shelly Lee, Matt Mintschenko and Rosie Schiavone. Board member Brian Wigley was absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com