This column merely offers a gentle reminder to the EPRD board, new executive director Scott Robson, and especially GreenPlay LLC, the consulting firm that is preparing a new master plan for the district.
We want to remind you that the master plan should be guided primarily by the random survey of 1,008 voters done last summer. That silent majority of the voting public within the district made clear that it is satisfied with the status quo, and that EPRD should focus on refining and adjusting its existing facilities and programs. The survey showed clearly that there is little support for capital construction of new buildings or adding any expensive new programs. There was a strong preference for expanding existing structures if the need arises, not building new ones.
This conclusion was supported by the results of the last election for directors, in which far more than the usual number of people voted. The candidates who won indicated a willingness to put much weight on the outcome of the survey. The candidates who indicated the survey was of lesser importance and those who advocated major construction or program expansion were soundly defeated.
The four recent focus group meetings had total participation of about 100 people. Most people who attend such meetings want something. There can be a tendency to subconsciously give added weight to whoever speaks last if they sound convincing. We therefore remind the people putting together, reviewing and approving the master plan that the 2010 user survey was the fundamental opinion of EPRD residents. GreenPlay did not participate in the survey, but heard those voices at the focus groups it organized, and must remember to put that in the context of the survey results.
The purpose of EPRD is to provide a general service to the general public, not a specialist service. If your kids have the potential to be Olympic gymnasts, that’s wonderful, but providing special facilities and advanced training to reach that potential is way beyond the scope of a public recreation district. Do we need an indoor ice rink? No. We have the lake in winter, and that is enough.
Because GreenPlay and Robson were not involved with EPRD when the survey was done, we encourage them to read the survey report closely and take it to heart if they have not already done so. That was the voice of the district’s citizens. People who attended the focus groups should be heard, but if they want something that was not supported by the survey, their wishes are a minority view. They should not be controlling, especially if they want something the survey said should not be pursued. The survey represents the voters’ views, and the last board election results reflected those views.
The survey asked broad questions, not specific ones, and is subject to interpretation, but it made very clear that the great majority of district residents are happy with EPRD as it is. The squeaky wheel may need to be greased, but that does not mean a new wheel is needed. Refinement and flexibility should be the main goals. Repair and maintenance are essential, of course, but major expansion is not.
The Evergreen Curmudgeons are a group of retired professional men who are citizen advocates.