February 9, 2018 10:45:56 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
The Starkville Parks and Recreation Department is seeking public input on the city's park system as part of its recently-launched "State of the Parks" initiative.
The initiative, which lasts the month of February, primarily seeks to gather input on how the public uses parks and what amenities and resources they would like to see added to them.
To do that, the Parks and Recreation department is collecting information two ways. The first is through a survey, which is available to fill out in-person at the Starkville Sportsplex on Lynn Lane and online at www.starkvilleparks.com. The department is accepting surveys through March 1.
The second is a series of ward meetings that will be held through the month. Ward 1 has a meeting at 6 p.m. on March 1 in the Sportsplex meeting room; Ward 2 has a meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 15 in the Sportsplex meeting room; Ward 3 has a meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the Starkville Country Club; Ward 4 has a meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Needmore Center; Ward 5 has a meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12 at Renasant Bank; and wards 6 and 7 have a combined meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26 in J.L. King Park.
Interim Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan said many Starkville residents hear about the Sportsplex and McKee Park, especially with the recent news that aldermen are considering a purchase of 51 acres of land near the Sportsplex. Other parks, however, are less well-known.
"That ties into the excitement regarding the Sportsplex-McKee area," he said. "That's fantastic, and I'm glad were excited about the Sportsplex and McKee, but we have other parks. If you're a citizen and you live up on the north side by (Highway) 82 or somewhere -- especially if you don't have kids -- you may not use the Sportsplex very often.
"We wanted to be able to address the state of the parks for the entire city and get public input," he said.
The information collected through the state of the parks initiative should offer accompanying information the city collected during a 2016 master planning process conducted by Dalhoff Thomas Design Studio, which found Starkville will need to expand its park system for further growth.
Because the state of the parks initiative is taking a ward-by-ward approach and questions people about what parks they use most frequently, Logan said he hopes it will help inform decisions about which resources are needed at which parks.
"So if I wanted to add a new playground a Moncrief Park in six months, this survey and this initiative will hopefully give me some background in making those decisions," he said. "(We can) figure out who all is using that park and what ages so we can develop in that area based off of that information.
"If we've got a lot of people in the teenage range, then maybe we don't need a tiny tot playground," Logan added. "Stuff like that."
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he appreciates the parks department moving ahead with the initiative and noted it's the first time he's seen such an outreach effort from the department.
He said he's glad the initiative seeks public input because, if Starkville eventually moves ahead with expanding offerings at its parks, it may require a tax increase. While there's currently no guarantee that such an increase would happen -- or when -- Carver said he felt it's important to get public input. He said it's especially important after the city committed $7 million to the development of an industrial park last year.
"Our second priority behind job creation and growth and development is parks and recreation," Carver said. "I think this is an opportunity to see if the community is engaged in the parks and if the community is willing to take another tax increase for parks and recreation.
"There would be a tax increase if you start getting into major expansions of fields -- baseball, softball, soccer and so on," he later added. "If that's where this is heading, there's going to have to be some sort of increase in revenue."
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he's happy to see the Parks and Recreation department starting the outreach process to gather more information. He said he hoped the information would pair with what the city gathered through the master planning process, but he's interested to see the results nonetheless.
"It's always a positive thing to reach out to the community to find out issues and things they'd like to see that would make the parks, and especially the ones in their own neighborhoods, more enjoyable and successful," Walker said. "I think it's very good that we're reach out to see how we can make improvements moving forward."