Harper Woods to collect input for new parks and recreation master plan

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published March 8, 2017

HARPER WOODS — The city of Harper Woods is calling on both design professionals and the general public to help form a new master plan for its Parks and Recreation Department.

The plan will be the basis for the growth and maintenance of public properties and the continuation or implementation of new programs.

“It’s generally required that a master plan be done every five years, so it’s a regular occurrence,” Harper Woods City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk said. “Our plan hasn’t been redone since 2000. Part of that was our fiscal position, and any changes didn’t look possible. Now that things are looking up, we’re able to get things back on track and develop and maintain our parks and recreation facilities. With the plan completed, it will open up doors for grants and private sources of resources and income.”

Harper Woods will be getting professional input from McKenna Associates, a community planning and design firm. McKenna will assist the local government by forming the plan and doing a thorough examination of the community.

“McKenna Associates is our facilitator and will be helping us put our plan together,” said Skotarczyk. “They help us with all of our future planning, and they are already familiar with the community. They did our city’s general master plan and are contracted to act as our planners for the Planning Commission.”

Sarah Traxler is a vice president at McKenna Associates and will be leading the work for Harper Woods.

“The process we’ll be using is prescribed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and it involves a survey of existing parks and recreation resources, which we then measure against national standards to see if the city has the recommended amount of programs and parks,” said Traxler. “We’ve done dozens of parks and recreation plans throughout our company’s 40-year history. We’ve recently done plans for Garden City and Southfield, for example.”

In addition to professional guidance, the city wants to ensure that residents have a voice. The city plans to collect input from them in the form of at least one public roundtable discussion and an online survey.

“The needs of the community have changed since 2000, so we would like to see what the community thinks we need,” said Skotarczyk. “We want to ensure our plan reflects the current trends that are popular and beneficial to the city. The administration and City Council are very interested in providing the types of services our community desires, and I hope our residents understand we are trying to be good stewards of their money while providing the best possible services.”

No date for the roundtable discussion has been scheduled yet, but Skotarczyk said the time, date and location will be released as the initiative progresses.

Several issues that will be looked at as part of the process of formulating the new master plan include equitable access for all residents, the ability to apply for additional grants and ensuring that residents are getting the best return on their tax dollars.

“We want to ensure all the city’s parks have designs that are accessible to everyone regardless of physical or mental ability,” said Traxler. “I think the City Council, Planning Commission and Recreation Advisory Committee wanted to take a good look at their facilities and make sure they are getting the most for their citizens. Not to mention this plan would be a key to getting grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They require an updated plan.

The timeline for the project is still being formed, but Traxler said they want to move efficiently.

“We’ll be kicking off the planning in March; there will be an online survey and a roundtable discussion for the community to ensure we are getting their input soon after,” she said. “We’re looking at about a five-month process, so we would have a finalized master plan in June or July.”

Skotarczyk said he is optimistic about the process and hopes to see several new developments in the community: some that will be immediate and others that could take several years to come to fruition.

“I think our previous plans didn’t address issues like pocket parks, and I would like to see more focus on issues like this that address green space,” said Skotarczyk. “We are interested in a new recreation facility. We may not have the resources for such a facility at this time, but we want to know what the community would like to see and what our options are if the funding becomes available in the near future.”