City wraps up survey, makes plan for parks
Restrooms, infrastructure, vandalism among biggest concerns
Now that the city of Cassville has wrapped up its online survey asking residents for their opinions on usage and potential improvements of its park system, it is moving forward with a grant application through the Department of Natural Resources and multiyear Parks Improvement Plan.
Public Works Director David Brock has asked the city’s Board of Aldermen to approve a comprehensive report he prepared outlining the results of the survey, his analysis of local parks, and suggestions for a three-year parks plan.
A total of 308 persons completed the survey, which covered nine questions concerning usage and future improvement areas of Cassville’s park system.
According to survey results, the most popular reasons to visit Cassville parks was to walk or bike for exercise on the Greenway Trail, at 74 percent; to enjoy nature and the outdoors at 65 percent; and to participate in family activities, at 42 percent.
However, 43 percent of respondents stated that they seldom or never use the parks because of the condition or lack of restrooms. Even more, 64 percent, shared that they felt new or improved restrooms would best suit their recreational needs
The Greenway Trail ranked as the most visited, followed by Rocky Edmondson Park, the Downtown Park, South Park, then the Aquatic Center.
More than 50 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with maintenance and general upkeep, while 10 percent felt it was “poor” or “terrible.”
At least 65 percent of surveyors said dissatisfaction with park infrastructure kept them from visiting, with the most common responses citing the condition or lack of restrooms (43 percent) and playground equipment (14 percent).
In 35 percent of responses, safety, vandalism and graffiti were cited as reasons that kept them from visiting the parks, along with “illicit or illegal activities,” which were frequently mentioned in open-ended responses
Areas targeted in Brock’s report were the: Downtown City Park, Mill Street Playground, Cassville Sports Complex, and the Greenway Trail, with an inventory, conditions and challenges listed for each area, along with suggested maintenance, improvements and expansion ideas.
In his report, Brock said the park plan would provide an enduring maintenance and improvement plan that would apply resources in the following priorities:
1. Public health and safety
2. Sustaining existing infrastructure
3. Enhancing user experiences
4. Expansion and new amenities
Additionally, Brock stated that those priorities should incorporate the mission, vision, values and goals developed by the Board of Aldermen during strategic planning sessions that occurred over the summer and fall of last year.
One core goal that came from of those conversations was “a vibrant and active park system that will promote the health, well-being and development of residents of every age.”
For the downtown park, Alderman Jon Horner brought up concerns about the lack of bathroom facilities, lighting, trash, foul language, and reports of drug dealing, asking Chief of Police Dana Kammerlohr if the area could be patrolled more.
“What type of police presence do we make at night at the park?” he asked.
Kammerlohr answered that it depends on the volume of calls, adding that the department did not receive a grant it had applied for to provide more coverage to the parks.
Horner asked if officers could park and walk the trail as a means to curb some of the “unsavory aspects” of park activity at night, to which Kammerlohr stated that when officers do patrol the area, “they get out and walk among the kids.”
Alderman Mike Vining suggested that officers patrol the area on bikes.
Kammerlohr said the department did have bikes available, but had to have manpower to utilize them.
“If I had two officers, that would be a possibility,” she said, adding that, due to limited manpower, it would pose a challenge for the officer to get back to their cars if on foot or a bike, to respond to an emergency situation.”
Regarding bathrooms, Horner said there’s nothing worse than a bathroom that is not cleaned up or does not have supplies.
Brock responded to say that he was looking at the possibility of year-round bathrooms, similar to what Rocky Edmondson Park has, at a cost of about $80 per square foot.
“Stainless steal is not cheap, and the type of fixtures you need can be expensive, but I do see having working bathrooms in the park that close when the park closes,” he said.
Vining suggested spartan-style bathrooms that required minimal maintenance, such as those seen in Army Corps of Engineer locations with concrete floors that could be sprayed down to be cleaned.
“That’s what were envisioning, and still be attractive,” Brock said, adding that the city should be able to budget the cost of an architect to work out the details for the design of a bathroom meeting that description.
The council and Mayor Bill Shiveley thanked Brock for the survey and his comprehensive report.
“We appreciate the survey, and hopefully, we’ll get some nice improvements [to the parks],” Horner said.
Brock said he was pleased with the amount of responses to the survey, and that receiving them helped validate any improvements that need to be made, and enabled the city to apply for the DNR grant, which helps provide funding to municipalities to improve their park systems.
Brock said he planned to submit the application for the grant by Friday, which includes a 45-day period, and would potentially provide about $250,000 in funds for parks improvement, with a local share of about $64,000.
If the city obtains the grant, a formalized plan would be developed in the third quarter of this year, and the city’s portion of costs built into the 2019 budget.
For more information on the Park Improvement Plan, Brock can be reached at 417-847-4441.