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March 6, 2013

Trail and tails are what Parks and Rec survey respondents want most

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Pathways throughout the city and a dedicated dog park emerged as priorities in the recent community forums and online survey seeking input on what residents want in their parks and recreation programs in Troy.

The Parks and Recreation Survey was available online from Nov. 27 through Jan. 21, and paper copies of the survey were available at the Troy Community Center, Planning Department and City Manager’s Office.

A total of 893 people responded to the survey and submitted 705 comments. The software allowed those who responded to comment on existing parks, recreation sites and future (undeveloped) park sites. Comments included new amenities needed, park and facility maintenance issues and development/redevelopment opportunities. There were two public input sessions held Jan. 17 and Feb. 21.

Respondents said they used fitness walking trails, golf courses and nature areas more often than baseball/softball diamonds, soccer fields and tennis courts. The majority of respondents (36 percent) were over age 61, followed by 24 percent ages 51-60 and 23 percent ages 41-50. Only 4 percent of respondents were ages 21-30, and 11 percent of the respondents were ages 31-40. More males (54 percent) responded than females (46 percent).

Multipurpose trails and pathways headed the list for what respondents wanted the most, followed by dog parks. In developing the previous 5-Year Parks and Recreation Master Plan, city leaders learned residents named trails and pathways as a top priority.

The Troy Trails and Pathways Committee of volunteers was formed, which in collaboration with the North Woodward Community Foundation planned to identify ways to connect residential neighborhoods to parks, schools, shopping areas, dining, recreation and work centers. The resulting plan was to be implemented in stages. However, plans stalled in the economic downturn and the plan is now out-of-date. In the previous plan, 12 pieces of land were identified as future park sites and, to date, three of those underwent improvements: Gateway, Milverton and Big Beaver Road parks.

Since 2008, the combined budgets for the Parks and Recreation Departments dropped from $9.5 million to $6.2 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The action plan going forward calls for city employees to analyze existing trails and pathways, update the 2009 plan where necessary and recommend adoption of the plan to the Troy City Council. The plan also calls for city staff to pursue community partnerships, volunteers and grant opportunities to fund improvements and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities and programs.

Troy City Planning Director Brent Savidant explained that, every five years, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources requires municipalities to redefine or update their parks and recreation plans in order to be eligible to apply for grant funding. Savidant said, while the city didn’t pursue the grants in the past, it is good practice to update the plan every five years.

With regard to a dog park, the draft Parks and Recreation Master Plan states that, in order to develop a dog park, the city would need to place it in an existing park and carefully examine the maintenance and permit costs, and the feasibility of community partnerships to fund the costs.

“We know people have spoken,” Savidant said. “We don’t know exactly how to get there and will try to come up with creative ways to get there.”

“Clearly trails, pathways and a dog park were big interests of those who completed the survey and came to the public forums,” said Carol Anderson, temporary Recreation Director. “Until funds are available, it will be difficult to make much progress.” She noted city employees would have to look at grants and community partnerships for possible sources of funding. 

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board reviewed the draft plan last month. The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the draft of the 5-Year Parks and Recreation Plan at the March 12 meeting. The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan at the April 14 meeting.

A copy of the draft 5-Year Parks and Recreation Plan is available on the city website, www.troymi.gov, click on City Updates.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.