People have, and always will be, part of the planning process when it comes to adding new parks and new park amenities. While their participation is voluntary, the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) often look to them to help prioritize projects, and to ensure they are moving forward in the right direction.
“Whenever we make the decision to enhance recreation opportunities at our parks and preserves, we conduct needs assessment surveys, host public meetings and request online feedback,” said Dave Knopp, Operations Chief of DPR’s North Districts. “It’s important for us to listen to what people are saying. We start by sharing what we know, we listen to their response, and we respond accordingly.”
Knopp recently attended the review of the design-plan for a new community park in Borrego Springs, and the public access plan for a new 2,016-acre preserve in Ramona called Boulder Oaks. His insight provides a small window into the role of civic engagement in the day-to-day planning operations of County Parks.
A 16-acre park is being added to the small community of Borrego Springs. Last October, a community meeting was held to review two proposed design plans with residents and local business owners. This was following an earlier meeting to discuss park use and preferred amenities. The survey that complimented these meetings solicited responses from more than 400 residents.
“Feedback was mixed - seniors wanted to see more shade, a bandstand and a bocce ball court, while parents wanted their kids to have greater access to swings, a playground and water misters,” said Knopp. “Our mission is to balance everyone’s needs and to factor in function and sustainability. We’re in constant conversation with this community, and will be presenting to them again once a final design has been adopted by the County Board of Supervisors.”
Public Access Plans are part of a park or preserve’s Resource Management Plan. They help guide the department through public thoroughfare and parking situations, and find equilibrium between human recreational needs and the needs of the land and local wildlife. In the Boulder Oaks scenario, the plan was reviewed with a full house this summer – involving residents, equestrian groups, mountain bikers, hikers, naturalists, businesses and other agencies for more than three hours. Anyone who could not attend the meeting was invited to review highlights on sdparks.org within a week of the event.
“We were excited by how many people attended the meeting,” said Knopp. “This is a crucial topic for many people in the Ramona area, and we will take care to address all of their needs to the best of our ability.”
A second public meeting will be held in the next few years, once the Public Access Plan has been updated. DPR is on track to bring this community one step closer to expanded trail access – taking into consideration the specific needs of this bustling small town and outdoor enthusiasts at large.
Article written by Jessica Geiszler, County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation