Less than two decades ago, Mansfield was known as not much more than a suburb of Arlington. The town had only one high school and approximately one third of its current population of around 70,000.
Not so anymore. Today, Mansfield is one of the most popular places to settle for newcomers to the Metroplex. There are now nine high schools on seven campuses.
One thing families new and old love in any city is parks. So, in doing its part to help with the transition from sleepy country town to bustling, progressive city, the Mansfield Parks and Recreation Department is launching a 10-year master plan with the theme “My Mansfield Parks.”
“We know the city has seen a lot of growth over the years, but we also see a lot of potential for the future,” Mansfield Parks and Recreation Director Matt Young said. “With a master plan in place, we can anticipate future needs of our citizens and start working towards those projects now rather than playing catch-up down the road.”
An advisory committee composed of staff, community leaders and experts will spend the next 18 months compiling research, analyzing data and formulating recommendations. Mansfield Marketing and Communications Manager Ann Beck compared the work to checking the pantry before going shopping at the grocery store.
She also said community involvement is one of the most important factors, primarily because the plan won’t work if it isn’t what the residents want and need.
“We want residents to feel not just included, but important. These are their parks, not ours, and they should reflect the Mansfield they want to have,” Beck said. “That will mean something different for each person. One resident’s ideal park is full of bike trails, but another may envision open fields of natural wildlife.
“The idea is to collect as many different ideas as possible so we can work to build a vision for the future that reflects everyone’s goals.”
Beck also noted that it was a master plan in 2009 that brought about the creation of Oliver Nature Park.
“It was a large farm that the family requested be turned into a park, and it was one of the highest priorities in our 2009 plan,” she said. “It opened in 2015 and has been award-winning and incredibly popular ever since.”
The 2009 master plan also brought about renovations at Clayton W. Chandler Park, which turned seven empty acres into one of the most densely programmed parks in the city. It is home to the city’s only splash pad and skateboard plaza, making it one of the more popular parks.
Beck said the plan before that one initiated the award-winning Walnut Creek Linear Trail, which continues to grow and expand.
“Our parks have long been recognized as some of the best in the state, and we look forward to what the future development will bring,” Beck said.
The department has held two public meetings to speak directly to residents, answer questions and explain the process.
On April 10, they are hosting the city’s first virtual town hall meeting, where anyone around Mansfield — or even the world — can watch a question-and-answer session with staff and submit questions, all live on Facebook. Another one is planned for September, followed by a public meeting in January or February to interact with the community.
Residents are also encouraged to complete a short online survey before April 15 to give the committee a baseline set of input.
The process is expected to take a little over a year, with the presentation to the council coming in April or May of 2020.
Targeted focus groups have also just gotten underway, with the first one held recently at Martha Reid Leadership Academy. Young met with third- and fourth-graders to hear their thoughts on current and future park plans. They ranged from requests for slides that don’t get hot to a large zoo with a built-in water park.
“We are taking any and all suggestions at this point,” Beck said. “It’s easy to dismiss a wild idea, but you just never know what might spark inspiration, or really hit a nerve with others.”
For more on the Mansfield Parks and Recreation Master Plan, visit mansfieldtexas.gov/masterplan. The website includes a link to the online survey, information about meetings and an option to sign up for an e-newsletter with specific plan updates. Or Beck can be contacted at 817-728-3385.