Parks master plan to guide priorities and services

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

The city of Sandpoint is taking its first steps to develop a new Parks and Recreation master plan.

A worm’s eye view of Memorial Field, seen here with its old grandstands. The choice between natural and artificial turf is just one big decision facing Sandpoint Parks and Recreation. Photo by Ben Olson.

Announced at a City Council meeting Wednesday night, the new plan is intended to define the scope of Parks and Recreation programs and services, identify priorities for future acquisitions or expansions and ensure that the department remains financially sustainable.

“We’re just like anyone with a family budget — we have to live within our means,” said Sandpoint Parks and Recreation Director Kim Woodruff.

According to Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton, city staff will develop the plan over several phases with the help of a consultant that will be selected later this year. The first phase will create an inventory of existing parks and rec sites, facilities and programs, both those belonging to the city and those associated with other organizations, nonprofits or private groups. In addition to cataloging conditions and trends within city properties and programs, the inventory will help prevent overlap with other local recreation entities.

The next step is to review parks planning at a system-wide level. This phase will identify the various needs within the park system and allow for the development of a prioritization plan.

Phase three introduces site-specific planning. Given the diverse array of programs and properties under the city parks system, from City Beach to Memorial Field, the phase will be essential to fitting individual needs within the broader plan.

Phase four focuses on the development of new or refined programs and services. This phase places a special focus on ensuring that city programs are complementary to those offered by other community partners —for instance, the YMCA, which recently purchased Sandpoint West Athletic Club.

Finally, the operational- and maintenance-planning phase will ensure that all parks projects are contained within a financially sustainable structure. This phase will analyze staffing projections and equipment needs and will result in a longterm financial plan for the Sandpoint Parks and Recreation Department.

That’s especially important because, when it comes to park management, one project will inevitably impact all the others. For instance, the Memorial Field grass replacement — specifically the question of whether to keep natural grass or move to artificial turf — is a project of great interest to local sports organizations and parents. However, it’s also a costly project, requiring between $80,000 and $100,000, and local option tax dollars won’t cover everything. 

Likewise, outside factors like the planned reconstruction of the Edgewater Hotel in 2020 will inevitably impact opportunities and development of nearby parks. For these reasons, decisions that stand to benefit from more strategic thinking may be delayed until a portion of the master plan is complete, Stapleton said.  

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