City seeks public comment on park plan
WILLMAR — The Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department is seeking public comment on a five-year plan the department is developing to address present and future city park needs and wants.
“It became clear to leadership at the city that we needed a park plan because we’ve got 37 parks — 38 designated park lands — in this city that need to be addressed,’’ says Steve Brisendine, Community Education and Recreation director.
“Every year we have capital requests related to our parks. How can we address what the specific needs are in a park system and balance it with what the budget is available to create that system,’’ he said.
Brisendine said the community has done a wonderful job in providing parks and amenities to Willmar citizens. However, a plan is needed for maintenance and development, adding amenities and items that the public wants, and creating a dedicated funding process.
“The goal is to have the best park system that we can and I think the community in the past has done a wonderful job providing parks and amenities to citizens,’’ he said.
“What we hope to get out of a park plan is how do we want to move forward with our parks and what amenities does the community want us to put in our parks and how can we create a budget schedule that will provide the resources to keep the parks in that quality setting,’’ he said.
The department, citizens and staff have been working with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission in Willmar since June, collecting data, inventorying parks and equipment, and creating goals and objectives.
The process includes an online community survey to gather feedback from citizens on what they want in the park system. The survey is available at Community Education and Recreation’s website, willmarcer.com.
As of Thursday, 584 people had taken the survey. The last day to take the survey will be Monday. Brisendine said those taking the survey have provided some good feedback.
“We’ve heard that they want an archery range,’’ said Brisendine. “We’ve heard that they want a dog park. We’ve talked about replacing the (Rice Park) wading pool with a splash park. But what does the community actually want to do? It’s not for the staff to decide everything.’’
He said the process will also include holding one or more open house events in October to get more community feedback as the pieces of the plan are put in place.
Brisendine said the document will not just sit on a shelf but will become an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan and will be looked at by staff on an annual basis.
“You’ve got to have a park system plan that will enable the city to meet the needs of the public as they see fit. This is a park system that has needs. Why have a park system if it’s going to be rundown? We want a park system that everybody can be proud of,’’ he said.
“We’re very optimistic it’s going to be a good plan, something that the community will support and hopefully some of the policymakers as well.’’