Troup County talks parks and rec master plan

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, December 2, 2020

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Representatives from Columbus-based Barge Design Solutions presented to the Troup County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning, discussing the county’s parks and recreation master plan. Once completed, the master plan will guide the county’s plans for the next decade.

Landscape architects Steve Provost and Mary Vavra explained that they had completed the research and analysis, community outreach and needs assessment phases of the planning process. Next on the agenda are development plans and recommendations, followed by an implementation plan. Commissioners were presented with the draft recommendations

“This plan is still in draft form. We’re still open to feedback from all of you and from

our clients, the park director and planning director,” Provost said.

After reviewing the county’s park inventory, Barge created a facility matrix that documents every facility at each park “so we know what is in good shape, what might need repair or what might need replacement,” Provost said.

Barge’s level of service analysis and recommendations concluded that the county should shift some neighborhood/school parks or special use parks to a community parks classification, which may mean enlarging them to accommodate more facilities.

It also recommended adding a sports park to accommodate multipurpose fields.

Between now and 2034, Barge believes Troup should add 91 acres and 113 areas as the community grows. In the analysis, the county is estimated to grow by 10.6 percent over the next 15 years (about 8,000 new residents).

“One of the most difficult questions we had in the survey was about funding. So, we know a lot of the parks have been funded with SPLOST, but that doesn’t include maintenance and how difficult that is,” Vavra said.

Among the survey respondents, 31 percent do not support more funding for programs and maintenance, 48 percent support adding/increasing user and rental fees and 21 percent support increasing taxes.

When asking how they ranked parks and rec compared to other priorities such as schools, infrastructure and public safety, 70 percent of respondents said as important, 6 percent said more important and 24 percent said not as important.

When it comes to creating county budgets, Troup spends about $2,100 per acre maintained on parks. Barge recommends increasing that to $3,620 per acre after adjusting for cost-of-living index and comparing that figure to similar communities. Doing so would increase the budget by about $1 million per year.

The public input process involved a focus group workshop, public meetings and an online survey that generated 590 responses.

The focus group, which included stakeholders that are intimately involved with the parks, identified strengths and challenges of the park system.

Strengths were identified as management, variety of programs, emphasis of improvement of facilities, park distribution and offering lots for both kids and adults.

Challenges, however, are funding, declining park facilities, difficulty securing practice/training time and difficulty incorporating new programs due to lack of space.

Using resident feedback from the public meetings, Barge administered the web survey.

Survey respondents were diverse in income, but were more female and whiter than the community at large. Barge isolated the demographics “to make sure that no one group was skewing the results,” Vavra said.

The top ten desired programs among respondents were art classes, community special events (festivals, etc.), community gardening, fitness and wellness programs, outdoor programs, horseback riding classes, programs for people with special needs, after-school programs, water fitness programs and youth learn-to-swim programs.

“I’ve done several dozens of these surveys, and this was the first time I’ve seen art classes at the top. It was a surprise,” Vavra said.

The top five desired facilities were restroom buildings, pavilion/picnic sites, paved walking and biking trails, sidewalks and natural surface trails.

Other initial recommendations generated after the public input and level of service analysis were to address deferred maintenance items including pool issues; provide art classes; improve Pyne Road Park, including a multi-purpose recreational facility; and build a sport complex for multi-purpose fields. There were also recommendations for the LaGrange, West Point and Hogansville service areas.

Going forward, Barge will draft a master plan report to county staff and incorporate additional comments from staff and commissioners.