Master plan to aid parks, rec

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Community members and leaders gathered at the Farmville Town Office July 18 to discuss a final version of a master plan for the town’s parks and recreation.

Major points in the plan included maintaining, renovating and making relevant the existing facilities and potentially building a recreation center in the town.

Bill Mecknick and Tristan Cleveland with Land Planning & Design Associates (LPDA) introduced the master plan and gave a presentation highlighting its key themes. Mecknick said the LPDA was able to communicate a lot with area residents, and saw some of the highlights and challenges with the town’s current recreation system.

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He said with some tweaks, he said the town could be “a premiere destination” for recreation.

The plan, which began in 2017, came as a result of surveys from town residents, land surveys from the LPDA and a series of community meetings that took place in the town in the past year.

Surveys taken by LPDA found that 83 percent of survey responders visited Farmville parks in the in the past year. The survey found that 60 percent of participants said funding parks and recreation is equally or more important than other town priorities.

In the survey, 78 percent of participants said they do not use park facilities or programs in the town more often because they do not know what is offered at these programs, or where the facilities are. Concerns about park facilities include lack of disability accessibility, inadequate space at facilities, limited connections to surrounding neighborhoods and aging site furnishings.

Cleveland said the full document comes to 400 pages.

She said the next steps in the master plan would be to address and ensure Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility at existing parks, connect walking trails to adjacent neighborhoods, replace aging equipment, create a plan for cyclists and pedestrians in the area, develop Haynes Street Park with amenities such as a picnic area, a playground and multi-purpose fields and expand development of Riverside Park, including improving its kayak take-out launch point for participants to bring their kayaks to the Appomattox River.

She emphasized the importance of building connections between the town, area state parks, Longwood University, Hampden-Sydney College and organizations within the area. Then, LPDA and the town would look into potentially building a recreation center in the town, possibly in the area of the Barbara Rose Johns Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library and the Farmville Fire Department.

Two additional new facilities that were proposed through the presentation are an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor basketball gym. Potential locations for the amphitheater and consolidated recreation center are Riverside Park for the amphitheater and the West Third street area for the recreation center, which could also house the basketball gym.

“This was an excellent first step,” Cleveland said about the meeting. “But the momentum has to continue in order to take these words and implement them in to action plans.”

“This is a very long process,” Town Mayor David Whitus said. “Nothing’s going to happen tomorrow. There will be opportunity for citizen input.” He cited workgroups down the line that would allow citizens to offer input for these projects.

Mary Evlyn Upshaw, a resident, spoke about potentially developing an empty lot on South Virginia Street to build a playground for youth in the neighborhood.

Alanna Rivera with Farmville Area Habitat for Humanity responded to Upshaw and encouraged the both of them to meet to further discuss that idea.

Longwood Director of Local and Community Relations Jen Cox asked whether there was a certain theme LPDA noticed in Farmville that the town could base its identity, citing Roanoke’s themes of “bikes, beers and brains.”

Mecknick cited the town’s quality features such as Riverside Park, the interconnected trails through the town and the proposed recreation center.

“You could imagine those three things, moving forward, happening, what amazing place you could have,” Mecknick said.

Farmville Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bolt said in a statement July 19 that he is excited to seethe master plan moving forward. Bolt said the master plan will act as a guide to provide new opportunities for the town.

“As Recreation Director for the Town of Farmville I am excited that we now have a master plan for the entire Parks & Rec. system,” Bolt said. “This plan will be used as a guide as the Town moves forward in further enhancing the Town’s Parks & Rec. system.”