Why use Green Ridge money? Residents question Cumberland park plan

Published 7:35 pm Monday, August 15, 2022

CUMBERLAND – Cumberland residents have a few questions about the county’s park plan. Mainly they want to talk about the money, especially the portion given to the county from Green Ridge Recycling. 

During the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9, County Administrator Derek Stamey gave an update on the upcoming parks and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

Let’s talk about Green Ridge

Part of the master plan is the construction of three new parks in Cumberland County. 

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In February 2021, Green Ridge Recycling donated $250,000 to Cumberland County to be used to develop three new parks in the northern, southern and central areas of the county, but there are no set locations yet. This donation is serving as the construction budget for this project. 

These parks will be co-located with pre-existing county facilities to help increase the ability to maintain, monitor and provide security for the facilities to make the parks more cost-effective. Its annual impact on the budget will be just over $11,500. This is calculated by assuming an average hourly rate for employees maintaining it and gas and equipment costs.

Due to many Cumberland residents not being in favor of the Green Ridge Landfill coming to the county, during the public comment period many asked if the landfill falls through what happens with that money?

“We’re receiving information about parks… that we’re getting money from Green Ridge to come and build in our community when Green Ridge hasn’t even been approved to come and build in our community,” said Robin Meade during public comments. “What if they’re declined? What if their permit is declined? Are we going to have to owe that $250,000 back?”

According to Chairman Brian Stanley, even if the deal falls through for the landfill, the county will not owe that money back.

“The park money is unconditional, that’s the only reason we accepted it,” said Stanley. “Nothing has to be paid back it was done after the previous board voted to move forward with this process. I’ll say again, we didn’t vote for the landfill so it’s impossible that it can be some sort of payoff. This was a corporate partner offering the county some money for parks which I believe are desperately needed especially for kids who have been dealing with the pandemic.”

The plan for the three parks will be prepared to be presented as a conditional use permit to the Planning Commission in its September meeting before going to the Board of Supervisors in October. In October, if the conditional use permit is approved, the construction will start in October and proceed through the winter months. 

More public feedback

The plan’s process began in March 2022 when a master plan survey was sent out asking about possible facilities and programs. This survey provided demographics of certain areas to help establish where the data is coming from and how to properly structure programs and fees. Looking at the current 200 responses, seeking a confidence level of 95%, it would place the margin of error at +/- 7 points, which according to Stamey is pretty good. Surveys will continue to be collected through mid-August. 

According to the public feedback received so far, 90% feel that parks and open spaces should be important considerations in future land decisions, 91% feel that community quality of life is enhanced and  90% are willing to drive 10 to 30 minutes for opportunities. The highest-rated outdoor facilities were playgrounds, trails, multipurpose fields, community gardens and basketball courts. 

Comparing Cumberland County with state and national standards, a deficit was found in trails, playgrounds and shelters. This led to the recommendation for the county to create more playgrounds, trails and shelters. 

The purpose of the plan

The purpose of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan is to guide staff recommendations for the Board of Supervisors to consider in their decision-making process. This process will be implemented for future plans coming down the pipe. Part of this plan is to gather citizen data and feedback and compare that feedback and data to a preestablish level service standard.

“A lot of localities look at master planning and they just provide planning for facilities, but we’re taking it to a much deeper realm,” said Stamey.  

The plan will include short and long-term facility development, programming focus areas, business plan and cost coverage and identifying long-term staffing recommendations. This plan is to help as the Board of Supervisors set budgets for future fiscal years and to move forward in light of how surrounding localities do as well.  

Part of this plan is the creation of a recreation advisory commission, which is a board-appointed commission to represent each district and provide guidance and feedback and endorse policies developed by the Parks and Recreations department. 

The plan also recommends the establishment of a 501C3 to create an organization for county special events and athletic programs to better serve residents and engage with residents on more of a volunteer basis. 

According to Stamey, the plan will be presented as a draft in the October meeting.