I’m excited to be back in my hometown directing Parks & Recreation. Victoria is a city with a lot of natural beauty, and we’ve got a great parks system with good bones and plenty of space for expansion and new amenities. Our recreation programming is strong as well, with so many fun events and activities that it’s truly a shame they’ve been put on hold because of COVID-19.
We have endless opportunities before us for growth and improvement, but before we start, it’s important for us to understand where we want to be. That’s where the upcoming Parks & Recreation master plan comes in. The master plan is essentially a blueprint that outlines our goals and provides direction for expansion.
The department’s last master plan was published in 2012, and it was primarily a needs assessment. The new master plan will go into more detail, compiling the information we gather during the planning phase and outlining a path forward through conceptual renderings and recommendations on how to meet the community’s needs. For example, if the community wants something that we’re unable to provide on our own, the master plan will outline strategies such as partnerships and grant funding that can help us achieve that goal.
I’ve participated in various stages of the master planning process during my previous roles with Jersey Village, Kingsville and Bastrop. In my experience, the single greatest predictor for a successful master plan is community input. Data and statistics can only take us so far; the only way we can be sure that we’re building the parks system that Victoria wants is if we gather feedback and act on it. Giving people the opportunity to have their voices heard will allow the community to take ownership of our parks system and the Parks & Recreation master plan.
Because a greater public response will help us to craft a master plan that accurately reflects the public’s wishes, we want to be thorough in providing opportunities for community input during the early stages of the planning process. The first step will be hiring a consultant. We’ll start reviewing proposals from different consulting firms after the submission period closes this Wednesday, July 15, and we plan to make a hiring recommendation to the City Council by early August. If all goes well, we will begin surveying the public in September about the direction of the new master plan.
The survey results will provide the consultant with a preliminary idea of what the public wants as we begin scheduling town hall meetings. We hope to host meetings on multiple days at various locations in order to give people many opportunities to attend, but it all depends on the state of the pandemic at that time. If we are unable to host traditional town hall meetings, we will work with the consultant to find a different format option to allow the public to share feedback.
We hope that you’ll share your ideas with us as the master planning process begins. In the meantime, we invite you to bring your feedback on all things Parks & Recreation to the Parks Commission, an advisory board that meets at 5 p.m. the second Monday of every month at the City Council chambers. You can also reach out to Parks & Recreation by visiting our webpage or contacting us through our Facebook page.
Jason Alfaro is the director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Victoria.