The community is invited to weigh in on Mercer Island’s long term plan for parks and open spaces.
A new six-year Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan will guide the city’s decisions for parks projects going forward. Starting Feb. 12, a community survey is the first of several ways Islanders can give input.
“The PROS plan serves the purposes of cataloging what our current needs are and also looking into the future for what we can anticipate as future needs,” said Paul West, capital projects and planning manager.
The community-driven plan aims to outline goals and priorities to drive work and also will have a wish list of parks projects and amenities. West also said the plan will help to identify capital plan projects.
West and Ryan Daly, interim parks and recreation director, said 2,500 paper surveys were randomly sent by mail to gather a statistical sample. Anyone who would like to contribute input can take the survey online until March 9 on the city’s Let’s Talk website at https://letstalk.mercergov.org/miprosplan.
City staff hopes to learn what the community desires as far as parks services and recreation amenities and to see community needs identified.
West said the survey results will start to show who the audience is and what their interests are. At the first PROS plan open house on April 18 at Islander Middle School the results will be presented.
From there, feedback and staff-collected inventory will be used to begin drafting themes, priorities, reinvestment needs, issues and project ideas. Focus group discussions will take place.
There also will be six pop-up events at different parks and trails on the Island during the summer. At those events, community members are invited to walk with parks staff and show them areas they think need improvement or point out locations for ideas.
By the end of the summer, they are hoping to have a pretty good idea of what to put on paper as the community-guided direction they should be going. Preservation of parks is something they’ve already heard as a popular priority.
Daly and West said a city PROS plan is required by state law for the city to be eligible for grant funding, and different cities tackle it in different ways. This year the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks and Recreation Commission are going bigger, launching a full campaign.
West said the city council will be involved throughout the entire process from the beginning and they aim to have a draft plan for the council in the fall. A plan could be adopted in early 2021.
For the first time, the PROS plan also will be incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan so the two plans read the same.
“I look at this plan as a huge opportunity for this community to get together and have these conversations about what the future holds. There’s a lot of optimism in that conversation,” Daly said. “Our whole goal through this process is to give the community what they want for the future, and this Parks and Recreation and Open Space Plan gives us that opportunity.”
He also said it is an opportunity to evaluate the Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’re going to be informed of how the community feels about the park system, both in its strengths and its weaknesses,” Daly said. “It’s extremely beneficial for a department this size with such a broad scope of work to understand where the community would like us to focus our resources.”