The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 2, 2012

What do you want in a park? City gets ready to ask

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A parks and recreation master plan will be released to the city within the next six weeks, and the public will have the chance to comment on it, city officials said.

City Manager Eric Benson said the plan is being done by Van Curen and Howell and Management Learning Laboratories and will establish a website for others to comment. Benson said the idea for the plan is to improve Enid’s quality of life.

“We have been — for some months — pursuing a master park and recreation and quality-of-life master plan,” Benson said.

He said the plan is nearly ready for presentation to the city commission. A public unveiling also is planned, and officials will request public comments. The study has asked for public comments from the beginning, with Van Curen and Howell and Management Learning Laboratories sending out about 5,000 requests. Benson said he wants the public to see the plan, then comment on what they would like to see that isn’t there, or suggest any improvements to the plan.

“Do we want to invest in ourselves and pursue the plan?” Benson said. “We must decide on a course, then carry it out. It’s like the cart and the horse, we must decide which goes first.”

There are a number of options to pay for the plan once it is finalized. Among those are using money in the general fund, Enid Municipal Authority funds, general obligation bonds or revenue bonds. Benson said realistically, there are a half-dozen ways to finance the project. The amount to be financed also will need to be determined based on what projects are in the final plan.

However, Benson said it is premature to consider the way to pay for something when no decision has been made what to do. He said the plan will determine a “full-blown” park and recreation, quality-of-life report, and then officials will determine what the community is willing to embrace.

“Until we have that discussion, methods of funding are way, way down the road,” Benson said. “We don’t even know what we’re building yet or what capacity the city wants.”

Once the city receives the plan, it will be evaluated by the three city commissioners placed in charge of the plan, then the public will be asked to comment. Benson said it has been clear from the initial responses received in the initial survey that a new park and recreation facility resonates among the public.

“It encouraged us to determine what’s missing and how to address our current inventory, then (ask) what does the community need versus our quality of life and recreation, what best serves the community,” Benson said.