Arts, Parks, and Recreations Looks to Create Master Plan for Athens
Athens City Planner Paul Logue said that the city did a strategic plan for the department in 2007. That plan recommended that updates be made in 2012, which prompted the city to look into creating an Arts, Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Logue said that strategic plans are generally more of an internal project, with department staff and elected officials making evaluations and deciding what they personally want to accomplish with the department.
“This time, we really wanted to get a feel of the public as to what they would like to see from Arts, Parks and Recreation, what they think of the current facilities and what their long term goals might be,” Logue said.
The Arts, Parks and Recreation (APR) department maintains over 260 acres of land over eight different locations, including the Athens Community Center, Sells park and nature preserve, a nationally recognized skate park, as well as several playgrounds and sports facilities.
“We have a lot,” Logue said. “And that’s why we want to learn about what people think of what we have and also what we need in the future and what we need to be focusing on.”
The forum was split into three round table discussions that focused on usage and perceptions, satisfaction and future visions for the department.
The facilities that residents generally said they used most often were the Community Center, Arts West and the local parks. Overall, residents said that they were satisfied with the quality of the facilities and programs being offered in the city, but they did see room for improvement.
Bob Winters, chair of the Athens Municipal Arts Commission, said that he and his organization felt very strongly that Arts West was not supported correctly. Winters explained that the organization is extremely understaffed, with 60 hours of paid work available for what he sees as potentially 90 hours of responsibility.
Michael Tobar, who is also a member of AMAC, added that the building is simply rundown and used beyond capacity at this point. Tobar said that he would like to see the city to consider finding a newer arts facility.
“It’s not like people aren’t using it. It’s constantly in use,” Winters said. Winters said he sees Athens as having potential to become a creative economy and that the community needs to take advantage of that by supporting local arts and culture organizations.
Edward Baum said that he would like to see the city develop a “true” South Side park. Currently there is a park off of Dairy Lane for residents of the south side, but Baum said residents who live further south from this area are without a play area for their children.
“The city owns 20 acres up in [the Oakmont subdivision] that was never developed. There is a potential there for people who live in that area to be able to take their children to the park without having to get in their car and drive down to the South Side Park,” he said.
Another suggestion, made by Kellea Tibbs, was for the Arts, Parks and Recreation department to team with the city to create a city wide calendar to promote the many programs and events going on in Athens.
Tibbs said that she has trouble navigating the city’s website to find information on programming.
“The programming is what I would like to get updates on. It’d be nice if all the marketing and the communications were seamless and tied together,” Tibbs said.
In developing the Arts, Parks and Recreation master plan, Logue said that the city would be conducting a demographic analysis using recent census data to look at best practices and national averages for the types and number of facilities they need to offer.
Logue said that the city will use this data along with residents’ suggestions to begin working on a final report, which he said would be completed roughly by the end of the year.