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Committee discusses how to address city’s parks needs

Jim Burress, left, city of Roswell special services director, his wife, Vicki, and City Councilors Jacob Roebuck and Barry Foster talk about what kind of features parks should have during a meeting of an ad hoc recreation facilities committee Friday afternoon at the Parks Department Administration Office, 1101 W. Fourth Street. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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An ad hoc committee of the Roswell City Council on recreation facilities met for the first time late Friday afternoon for a wide-ranging conversation designed to start forming a vision or philosophy of the future of the city’s parks.

The committee did not have a quorum — Councilors Jeanine Best and Margaret Kennard were not present — but no votes were scheduled for the first meeting.

Co-chairs of the committee Councilors Barry Foster and Jacob Roebuck led the discussion, starting with the purpose of the committee.

The committee has two main goals, Roebuck said, which are to create a general policy on the kind, quantity, quality and purpose of the city parks that can be a living document to be updated and revised frequently. The committee is also charged by Mayor Dennis Kintigh to present to the full city council a list of five improvements or repairs to city parks with a budget recommendation for each.

“We’re not going to come up with end-all, be-all,” Roebuck said of a policy.

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Any recommendations the ad hoc committee comes up with will likely be taken to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission for input and then to the city council, Roebuck said.

Foster said part of the catalyst for the ad hoc committee was the former Chisum Elementary School property at 2301 S. Virginia, which the city has owned since 2007 and just this year officially designated as a park space.

“About four years ago, I started pushing to make it a park, and a lot of my pushback was we had too many parks,” Foster said.

“The city didn’t have a philosophy of what parks we should have,” he said.

Roebuck presented a list of questions for the group to discuss. Those present at the meeting also included Councilor Judy Stubbs, Community Development Director Kevin Maevers, Special Services Director Jim Burress, Engineer Louis Najar, Healthy Kids Chaves County Coordinator Becky Joyce and several community members.

In the hour-and-a-half meeting, the group talked about the general purpose of parks, different types of parks and their purposes, when should parks have restrooms and what kind of shade should be offered, among other topics.

One idea offered several times was that the purpose of a park depends on who it serves.

“A park is defined as an outdoor social gathering space, period,” Maevers said. “It can be everything from a lawn along the side of a building with a couple of picnic tables all the way up to and including a major regional facility designed for major tournaments of baseball and soccer and everything else, and everything in between.

“The purpose of that outdoor gathering space, though, is defined by the community it intends to serve,” he said.

Burress said consistency in what a park has to offer is important and pointed to Linda Vista Park, 3100 N. Delicado, as an example of how the city’s Parks Department has tried to establish that.

“If I go to a park, I should have an expectation — picnic tables, grill, trash cans, shade, some type of play equipment. A park should have this minimum so there’s some kind of consistency throughout the city,” he said.

In discussing different types of parks, Roebuck noted that some parks have a particular feature that becomes an attraction or makes the park a destination, such as the sunken garden at Cahoon Park, 1101 W. Fourth, that not only attracts families but also those seeking a location for a wedding or portraits.

“It’s not just a place to gather by itself, it’s got some attraction that makes it a destination,” he said.

“You’re nailing down the beginnings of a philosophy,” Maevers said. “All parks should have a reason for people to go there, a destination. Whether they are little more than a rose garden or they’re a bird sanctuary or they’re baseball fields and diamonds, there has to be a destination. There has to be something there, when you get there, that attracts you.”

Location is important in helping determine what that attraction might be, Stubbs and Maevers said.

“When you’re looking at what you’re going to put in a park or what is needed in a park, location is incredibly important for so many different things,” Stubbs said.

Those reasons include making sure the park reflects the demographic of the community and how responsive the community will be in helping report vandalism or other damage at the park.

Foster pointed to the new Chisum Park — which is still an empty lot — as an example. In August, the city conducted a public input meeting to hear what the community wanted in the park. About 30 residents attended and offered ideas about play equipment, lighting and safety.

“I believe that if we have a shade structure on their playground over there and someone goes to damage it, I think the police will get a call like that,” Foster said, snapping his fingers, “because those people bought into that park when we asked them to come.”

Demographics of a community can change as well, Maevers said, and that can bring about changes in what it needs for a park or for a city’s sports facilities. He spoke about the increasing popularity of pickle ball over tennis or an overall decline in the popularity of golf as examples.

The ad hoc committee will also create a method to evaluate the city’s parks and will take a tour of them to evaluate and make recommendations to city staff of improvements or even closures of parks. Another goal is to provide recommendations to city staff of how to continue to improve parks, which could include the creation of a parks advisory committee or hiring a consultant, Roebuck said.

Because no quorum was present, a second meeting date could not be decided. But at that meeting, the committee will work to take the ideas discussed Friday to create a policy or some sort of guidance to take to the full city council. The third meeting is designated for the tour and evaluation of city parks.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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