Parks and Recreation Master Plan Focuses on Efficiency

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan that will be presented to the city council on Thursday identifies College Station’s parks and recreation needs for the next 10 years and provides guidance, goals, strategies and actions on how to best address those needs.  A component of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the parks master plan lays the groundwork for policy change, capital projects, operational and administrative change, and recreation programming.  In addition, the proactive plan is responsive to our budget needs and is aligned with contemporary best practices in parks and recreation facilities and program delivery.

The core intent of this innovative plan is to improve efficiencies in our parks and programs, and its implementation will require additional funding over the next 10 years.  Given the current economic climate and budgetary constraints the city faces, successful implementation will require a thoughtful and incremental approach.  The availability of reliable funding for acquisition, development, operations and maintenance will play an integral role in the plan’s success.  A special emphasis is placed on approaches that meet needs in the most effective, practical and efficient manner. 

For the first time, the plan includes estimates on operations and maintenance costs for the identified parks, facilities and programs.  Overall, the estimated cost is about $58 million over the next decade.  Of that amount, $15 million already has been identified as projects that received voter approval in 2008 and those funded through existing parkland dedication fees and grants, which are paid by developers.  If development occurs as expected, we estimate that an additional $25 million will be generated through the parkland dedication ordinance.  The remaining $18 million will need to be addressed through additional funding such as future bond initiatives.

Do Parks, Open Spaces and Recreation Matter?

Parks and recreation have a significant and positive impact in a growing community, especially one such as College Station that is expected to add 40,000 new residents in the next 20 years. Parks and related facilities affect community character, complement a neighborhood’s style and function and are proven to enhance property values and increase tax revenues.  Peer-reviewed studies conducted by Texas A&M and others have shown that the close proximity of well-maintained neighborhood parks significantly increase the appraised values of homes and properties.

In addition, facilities such as Veterans Park can have an economic impact when they attract and host large tournaments. Last summer’s girls softball national tournament brought 6,000 visitors into our hotels, restaurants and stores.

Parks and recreation also make a responsible contribution to the community’s health and wellness.  Walking and jogging in parks and on trails is the most popular recreational activity in the United States, and access to these types of amenities helps citizens stay physically active and reduces obesity and related health issues and costs. Quality of life issues are directly tied to access to parks, facilities and recreation activity. 

The future can be bright for the outstanding parks and recreation services that help College Station’s maintain a high quality of life.  Not implementing this plan could result in lower service levels, reduced economic activity, and slower growth and development. With a renewed and more efficient focus of resources on the parks, facilities, and recreational needs of the community, College Station will continue to be a national leader in parks and recreation services.

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