The St. Clair Parks and Recreation Board has been charged with putting together a five-year master plan with the goal being to provide more and better recreational services for city residents.
Board members and City Administrator Rick Childers have been discussing the plan for several months, but got more serious about it in recent weeks.
“You need to look at what this community has and what it needs,” Childers told park board members. “You need to determine where the parks have been and where they’re going.”
In 2009, St. Clair put together a master comprehensive plan that targets all areas, including parks, recreation and open space. Childers said this park plan can be similar.
“We need a planning tool for the city in relation to parks,” he said. “You need to include big items and small items. You can’t be swayed, as far as planning purposes, on what things cost. If you need it or want it, include it.”
One idea that recently came to fruition was the spray pad in Evergreen Park. The facility successfully completed its first year of use in 2013 after the community swimming pool was closed, torn down and removed at the end of last year.
The spray park cost about $290,000 to build, and monies to pay for it came through the city’s Industrial Development Authority. The IDA option stipulated that the city sell Evergreen Park to the IDA, and the IDA enter into a contract with Westport Pools to construct the spray park.
The IDA, in turn, took out a loan to pay for the improvements to the park. The city leases the improved park back from the IDA at a rate equal to the loan payments and for the term of the loan.
The bank structured the loan as a one-year note renewable for up to a total of 12 years. When the loan is fully repaid the city will purchase the park back from the IDA.
The park budget includes a $32,000 annual payment on the note.
One critical item park board members have said the city needs is a recreation director. Funds were placed in the 2013 budget to fund a part-time position, but the job never materialized. The park board also has discussed a community recreation center, but funding has put that project on the back burner.
Plans also are being made for a disc golf course at Evergreen Park.
“If you decide we need a rec center, put it down,” Childers told park board members. “If you decide we need a horseshoe pit, put that down.
“It (long-range plan) will be a tool for you and the city to use.”
Park board member Keith Domke was selected to chair the long-range planning committee. Other members are park board President Linda Luetje Nelson, park employee Geoffrey Aslinger and community member Paula Dace.
The group hopes to start meeting sometime in November.
According to St. Clair’s comprehensive plan, there are about 52 acres of parks and open space in the city limits. The three parks are Evergreen, Orchard and Main Street.
The plan went through standards and guidelines for establishing and maintaining parks and open spaces.