Mercer Island residents voiced their opinions through a recent survey and virtual open house regarding the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan.
About 60 residents attended the second PROS public meeting on Sept. 28 and about 80 residents tuned in for the first meeting in March. On the survey front, the initial survey in 2020 received 1,763 responses and the recent survey tallied 1,329 responses.
While weighing in on the six-year guide and strategic plan for managing and enhancing parks, open space, trails and recreation opportunities through the surveys, 99% of the residents feel that parks and recreation is essential to their quality of life and 93% are satisfied with the value they receive from what’s offered.
According to the surveys, the top three reasons for visiting local parks are walking/running (77.1%), dog walking/exercise (54.9%) and beach/waterfront (51.4%).
The open houses featured live polling and breakout room discussions, which focused on trails, balancing existing and new recreational uses and strategizing for play area upgrades. The recent meeting had seven breakout rooms led by members of the city staff and others.
In Jason Kintner’s group, he said they were in favor of adding new recreational amenities like paddle boarding and splash pads, but with a balanced approach.
“There was a caution that to make sure that the new amenities were not just a fad and that the balanced approach takes into consideration whether or not that’s going to be a long-term investment into our parks system,” he said.
On the playground front, the group was interested in making sure the areas were inclusive for all ages. In the surveys, residents feel it is important for play areas to be ADA-accessible.
Jean Akers and Steve Duh of consultant Conservation Technix noted that in their groups attendees gave positive feedback about the current trail system and had an interest in implementing natural play areas for kids at the parks.
Regarding the trail along the water at Luther Burbank Park, Akers said that attendees noted that “it would be really nice to have more of those types of options where you can actually walk around and along the water.”
Akers added that there were some concerns about losing open space if there were additional amenities included in the plan.
Trails are especially important to residents and one chat-room commenter said they should connect students safely to school locations and residents to public transit options. Other suggestions were to place signage and maps on trails and to connect the existing trails within the parks so users can continue through a loop, said room leader Ryan Daly. Nancy Thai said her group members felt it was safe to have dedicated trails for bikers, walkers and hikers.
When it comes maintenance, Merrill Thomas-Schadt noted about her group’s comments: “There was a concern about adding to our trail system when maintenance of the existing one is a challenge for us, especially on trails that maybe are older or weren’t built kind of with the latest and greatest design.”
Regarding the possible sharing of pickleball and tennis courts, Lauren Wheeler said her group commented that the courts should be separate because the styles of play are different. Since pickleball’s popularity has grown, Thai noted that her group gave strong support for dedicated pickleball courts.
For more information on the PROS Plan, visit https://letstalk.mercergov.org/miprosplan.