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Parks proposal reviewed
Connectivity seen as key for future
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also Tuesday night, Forsyth County’s parks and recreation board:

• Approved some guidelines for naming future parks in a list of priorities. Naming by community takes precedence, with road, directional or landmark names to follow. Donated land and sponsorship could also be sources for naming.

• Recommended names for two southern green space sites votes. The board suggested Haw Creek Park for the Echols property and Caney Creek Preserve for the Harrison property.

• Note: All votes were 5-0.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

A consultant presented plans to grow and evolve the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department by beginning with a look back.

“When I first did the plan in ’98, there were about seven parks and few facilities,” Bob Betz said. “It’s really neat what you guys have done.”

In looking toward the future, the parks board reviewed the proposed master recreation plan for 2012-17 during a meeting Tuesday night.

Each five years, the plan is updated to help determine the type, number and location of future parks, facilities, programs, open space and trails to meet the county’s needs with realistic financial recommendations.

Betz said few residents attended the input sessions, but nearly 1,000 responded to the online survey seeking feedback.

The top request, he said, asked the county to provide more connectivity between parks and communities by adding sidewalks, trails or paths.

Betz suggested staff develop a plan for how to accomplish those links.

Other common suggestions included adding rectangle fields, such as those for football and soccer, as well as more gymnastics programs and opportunities for active adults, working parents and seniors.

Input on current parks use showed that walking and biking may surpass athletics, Betz said.

“The recreation demand in Forsyth County is kind of changing,” he said. “It used to be all athletics … and now it’s becoming more learning toward passive, individualized type opportunities.”

The county has been moving in that direction in part by working toward opening several passive, or green space, parks next year.

In following the county’s standard of providing 10 acres per 1,000 people, population projections show the county would be 109 acres shy by 2017.

Compared to the last five-year master plan, however, little land acquisition is suggested this go-around, Betz said.

The only specific recommendation is for an athletic complex of at least 50 acres in south Forsyth.

 “One thing we can’t forget is that we need to improve what we already have,” Betz said. “We need to continue to put money into existing parks.”

Board member Dan Slott emphasized the importance of funding improvements at current parks, and suggested moving some of the nearly $14 million set aside for undeveloped sites into the about $1.8 million for current sites.

Other top facility priorities included finishing the green space sites, the Big Creek Greenway and the planned park in the Matt community.

In terms of financing, Betz said funding all the recommendations in the plan would cost about $32 million.

The previous plan totaled about $105 million in improvements.

He said past funding sources included the voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond, as well as 1-cent sales tax revenue and impact fees charged to developers.

Those funding sources have either declined or will soon end, Betz said.

He suggested the possibility of a dedicated millage, in which a portion of property taxes would be set aside to achieve the plan’s goals.

Board members discussed holding a referendum on that funding option, but added that county commissioners would have to make that call.

The parks board recommended approval of the master plan as a whole in a 5-0 vote.

Betz likely will present the plan to commissioners Jan. 10.