Keep the Park in Winter Park
Guest Columnist – Bob Bendick
While there remains some uncertainty about the exact questions to be answered by a plan update, it has been encouraging to see the support among elected officials and others for continuing investment in parks and open space in Winter Park.
WP Vision Focuses on Parks & Greenspace
A number of the recommendations of the 2008 plan have been implemented. This, in itself, demonstrates the value of park planning, and this progress provides a good base for additional improvement. Careful stewardship of our parks reflects the views of the great majority of Winter Park residents, as expressed through the city’s recent Visioning Process. The Vision plan recommends:
• Investing in a sustainable future that encourages and supports lifelong learning, healthy living and a daily connectivity to the natural world.
• Enhancing walking, biking and recreational activities through a connected and integrated network of open space.
• Fostering sustainable public and private parks and open spaces using state of the art practices and techniques.
Revise Parks Plan to Address Today’s Needs
So why is a revision of the city’s parks and recreation plan a practical and useful step toward achieving the elements of our shared community vision? First, a revised plan would reflect the preferences of today’s Winter Park’s residents. For example, activities such as lacrosse and paddle boarding hardly existed here ten years ago, but now have grown to become popular uses of our parks.
Reduce Cost and Conflict
A carefully wrought plan would provide a much-needed cohesive framework for making decisions about expanding, adding or modifying individual parks. The decision-making process would become more cost-effective and the City would realize a reduction in the lost time and conflict that results from ad-hoc decision-making.
A thoughtfully revised plan would reduce duplication of facilities and activities, thus improving the delivery of recreational services to the people of Winter Park. It might also introduce innovative ways for private citizens to contribute to the natural and scenic character of our city.
Introduce Updated Management & Maintenance Practices
An updated plan would introduce state-of-the art techniques for management and maintenance of park facilities. A specific, achievable menu of desired projects would enable the City to take advantage of strategic opportunities for implementing the plan through public infrastructure programs, private donations and amenities in commercial and residential development projects.
Connect Our Parks
An updated plan would show how our parks can be connected with walkways and bikeways to provide a green framework for the city’s future. Connectivity among our parks would enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation for citizens of all ages while affording opportunities for safe, non-motorized transportation. We can achieve all this through coordination with the City’s bicycle and walkway planning.
No Need to Re-invent the Wheel
The city’s 2008 parks plan is a sound, useful document. There is no need to start over or to undertake a lengthy and complex planning process. We can take a practical, creative approach to discover ways to further enhance and connect our city’s natural assets of parks, lakes, private open space, walkways and bikeways.
Such an effort is well worth the investment of time and money. Having a clear, overarching vision of the city’s specific open space needs and priorities will save us in the long run, and will encourage the partnerships and creative ideas that are central to park planning and management in today’s world.
We owe it to the next generation to keep the park in Winter Park.