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Blueways, splash parks among residents wishes
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Public input meetings

What: Discussion of short- and long-range plans for Gainesville Parks and Recreation program and facilities
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today
Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St., and Fair Street Neighborhood Center, 715 Fair St.
More info: 770-531-2680

Swing sets, splash parks and blueways - just a few of the recreation ideas Gainesville residents have on their wish list.

Those ideas came out when Gainesville Parks and Recreation held public meetings Tuesday night to discuss goals for its Vision 2014 plan.

"Why do you need to update your plan? It puts people on the same page relating to future development priorities and gives council members an insight into your needs," said Chris Camp, president of Lose and Associates of Lawrenceville, who is helping with the update. "Recreation is not static. It's very cyclic and trends come and go. Ten years ago, adult softball was really big, but now it's not."

The firm is evaluating the city's funding levels, condition of facilities, diversity of programs and staffing levels for creation.

"Do you help all socioeconomic levels, do you have active seniors?" Camp asked. "When I grew up in the 1960s, seniors sat around and played cards and talked about young people. Now they're out and about and doing what they want."

Parks and Recreation officials held discussions at the Gainesville Civic Center and the Fair Street Neighborhood Center. Residents can also drop by those locations this afternoon to express ideas.

On Tuesday night, a handful of residents showed up to both places and posed their ideas.

"When I was in Vancouver, there was an enormous swing set for adults," Cynthia Self said at the civic center. "The child in you wants to play once in awhile, at least I do. I miss that. I'd also like to see an ice skating rink someday ... or a spray park like the one at Frances Meadows that is taller for adults."

Self also mentioned equestrian trails and areas for children to skateboard or cycle.

"I see a lot of plump kids, and it's really sad," she said. "We have a lot of signs up that say not to skateboard or ride bikes, and it seems like being overweight is the norm now."

Camp discussed recent trends, such as dog parks, skate parks and greenway trails that help residents stay interested and active.

"We conducted about 30 interviews recently, and basketball was mentioned many times. Volleyball, gymnastics and martial arts were mentioned as year-round indoor activities," he said. "We also had focus groups earlier today with people interested in greenways."

Camp mentioned the Midtown greenway trail that is seeing initial construction now. Long-term plans could include a bicycle network or pedestrian network across the city, as well as a blueway for lake lovers.

"A blueway is a waterway, and in Gainesville you have a lot of destination points at Holly Park, Lanier Point Park and Clarks Bridge Park where you could have kayak or canoe rentals," Camp said. "You have miles of water and shoreline, and Clarks Bridge is a world-class facility that's really not used to its full potential. It could bring in Olympic-level competitions every year."

Though recreation is one of the few areas in government that can generate revenue, funding for recreation programs is still a big issue for Gainesville, Camp said.

"The ‘build it and they will come' mentality in today's economic situation doesn't fly," he said.
"For this plan, we look at sustainable funding levels, and the goal is to always maximize current funding."

The last vision plan that Lose and Associates completed with Parks and Recreation pointed to the need for Frances Meadows Aquatic Center.

"I enjoy using it, but I think too many people are still missing out because they can't go and because of the money to participate," Berlinda Lipscomb said at the Fair Street center. "It seems that everything you can afford to do, Gainesville is trying to do."

City Council member Myrtle Figueras also pushed the need to increase use of current facilities.

"There's a lot that you can do for free in Gainesville. I want to talk about reprogramming a place so we can have classes of some sort and have more people using this facility," she said, motioning around the Fair Street center. "Somehow we should do something to about program activities to emphasize that we have these wonderful facilities."