Copious Mercer Island residents have shared their thoughts on the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan through a pair of surveys and they can next weigh in on the plan at a virtual open house on Sept. 28.
The city conducted its second monthlong survey through Sept. 17 as a follow-up to its initial survey in early 2020 to see if any data had changed throughout the pandemic, noted City Manager Jessi Bon at the Sept. 9 Parks and Recreation Commission virtual meeting. In one section of the surveys, residents were asked what they think are the most needed improvements to the current city parks system, including trails and open space areas.
The PROS Plan, which the city began updating in early 2020 and was suspended for a year due to the pandemic, will help inform parks and recreation priorities for the next six to 10 years. Bon explained that she’s leading the PROS Plan update project because she was formerly the parks director, and the department has experienced restructuring and layoffs over the last year. City councilmember Jake Jacobson plays a key role in the project as the council’s liaison since it will receive the plan for review and approval in January or February of 2022.
At the Sept. 9 meeting, consultant Steve Duh of Conservation Technix noted that physical copies of the second survey were delivered to a random sample of 2,500 households and the city had received 416 replies by mail (17% of total responses) as of the meeting’s date. There were 687 online responses at that time.
Duh said those numbers are strong and the community’s input has ramped up since the spring with the second virtual open house on the horizon.
“The intent is to utilize that survey data in part as a springboard to have the conversation with the community about where to go from here and tie some of that data back into the virtual public meeting,” he said. “That data and the analysis really is what we use to build our needs assessment for the overall PROS Plan. That needs assessment is segmented for the plan by chapters (parks and active use areas, open space and conservation, recreation and more).”
Next up in the trajectory of the project is compiling a survey summary memo by the end of September, and Duh and his team will compare and contrast the data within the two surveys.
“I think it’s really important to be able to look at the two data sets and see what we glean over time,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Peter Struck.
Duh said they plan to have a full comprehensive document in the Parks and Recreation Commission’s hands by the time of its November meeting for review and discussion. Next up will be presenting the plan to the city council and then having the entire process complete by late February or early March to meet the state Recreation Conservation Office’s deadline. Duh feels they should be on track to tie it all together by then.
According to city documents, the PROS Plan anticipates the programming and capital infrastructure investments necessary to meet the community’s need for parks, recreation, open space, trails, arts and cultural events.
On Sept. 9, the Parks and Recreation Commission had a robust discussion on the plan’s vital Chapter 4, which will also be reviewed by the Arts Council and the Open Space Conservancy Trust. The chapter highlights eight strategic goals: community engagement and partnerships; planning, acquisition and access; maintenance and operations; environment and sustainability; trails; recreation facilities and programming; arts and culture; and administration and fiscal sustainability.
City documents also state that capital project prioritization criteria includes safety and security, extending useful life/enhancing level of service, expanding opportunities, environmental/sustainability impact and unique recreation feature.
A few examples of suggested work to be done at parks are improving the ADA path from the parking lot to the park and shoreline at Clarke Beach Park; repairing the asphalt beach path and replacing the chain gate to improve access at Groveland Beach Park; and replacing the south piers with a floating dock and breakwater as part of the Luther Burbank Park docks renovation project.
The Sept. 28 meeting will take place at 5 p.m. and more information can be found at https://www.mercerisland.gov/meetings