The city is preparing for the next decade of parkland development — and seeking the public’s input — but members of the North Fort Worth Alliance are worried the city is not doing enough to get guidance from residents.
“It is the only time I’ve seen the city do a one-way conversation,” alliance President Rusty Fuller said about the one public meeting scheduled to let residents know about the new parks master plan.
“The truth of the matter is that city parks have to be different depending on the neighborhood. The cultures of the neighborhoods that we see in the city of Fort Worth are not homogeneous,” Fuller said. “They are just not.”
He said he hopes the city decides to turn the one public meeting into a series of meetings throughout the city to get more direction from residents.
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The meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Lecture Hall of the Deborah Beggs Moncrief Garden Center at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Officials will discuss the 2015 Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Master Plan, which will guide development of the city’s park system for five to 10 years.
Joel McElhany, manager of capital projects and infrastructure for the Parks and Community Services Department, said the meeting is not the only opportunity for public input.
The public-comment period for the master plan started more than a year ago, when the parks department conducted a 2013 needs assessment survey. The survey asked which facilities were most used and asked respondents to rate park services. It was mailed to 20,000 random residences and was also available online. Of those, 340 responses were mailed in, and 463 surveys were completed online.
McElhany said administrators will also consider public comments made during the 2014 bond program meetings from July to November 2013. Another survey, which asks residents to rate the most important park services and comment about needs, is online now.
“We are looking at trends. We are looking at what is new out there and what people want through the public process and the 2013 needs assessment,” McElhany said.
For example, he said, the staff will study the new demand for FootGolf — a mix of soccer and golf — and residents’ appeal for more playgrounds that are fully accessible to children with mental and physical disabilities.
When setting priorities, the staff will also consider the areas most in need of parkland, McElhany said.
Fuller and other alliance members were using Facebook to urge far north Fort Worth residents to attend Saturday’s meeting to make their need for parks known.
Part of a post on the North Fort Worth Alliance Facebook page says: “Are you happy with the parks, recreational facilities, hiking/biking trails BUILT, PAID for, and MAINTAINED up here in north Fort Worth by the City of Fort Worth? How about athletic fields? Look around you — do you see any? Neither do we!”
The post garnered over 40 comments and 40 likes.
Fuller said alliance members are happy that the city acquired the Northwest Community Park and that it is building athletic fields there. But much work remains to help the far north catch up with the rest of the city, he said.
“There are no community centers up here. And I don’t care what anyone says about the Y. It is not a community center. It is a failure,” said Fuller, referring to the city’s decision in 2007 to subsidize the construction of the Northpark YMCA instead of building a community center.
“What we want to do is, realizing this is a plan for the next 10 years, we don’t want to be at the tail end of the consideration that is going on,” Fuller said.
The ParkScore, released in May by the Trust for Public Land, ranked Fort Worth 40th out of the largest 60 cities. The study assessed the percentage of residents able to walk to a park in 10 minutes, or about half a mile, and without substantial barriers to walking, such as interstates.
It measured park size by the city’s median park size and the percentage of the city’s area dedicated to parks. It looked at services and investment by analyzing the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents and per capita park spending.
Fort Worth had a median park size of 7.5 acres, and parks represented 5.5 percent of the city’s area. Spending per resident on parks was $83.
City officials hoped to play catch-up on park needs with money from the 2014 bond issue, which includes $31.44 million for park construction and maintenance. Sheila Hill, parks board chairwoman, said the city is behind in providing park services.
“In the past, I don’t think the City Council has provided the funds necessary to keep up with parks, especially if you compare us to Arlington, Dallas and other cities around,” she said.
“But hopefully that has been realized, and next year and in the next five years, there will be more funds available to address that.”
She urged residents to fill out the online survey and contact their council member or the parks department if they have priorities for their parks.
“Maybe some people can’t come [Saturday], and I can see where that is a concern, but it has never been where you can’t voice your opinion,” Hill said.