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The ideas on Evergreen Park & Recreation District programs and facilities in the next five years are as diverse as the community members who propose them.
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The Evergreen Park & Recreation District will continue hosting discovery sessions to get the community’s input on programs and facilities the district should consider in the next three to five years.
The sessions will be:
• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, at Wulf Rec Center to discuss parks and outdoor recreation;
• 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at Buchanan Park Rec Center to discuss the rec centers and indoor programs;
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Evergreen Lake House to discuss special topics such as youth sports, aquatics, dog park, pickleball, etc.;
• 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at Buchanan Park Rec Center to discuss serving the whole community.
About 30 people attending two virtual discovery sessions on Jan. 19 said the district should provide more indoor sports space — considered the No. 1 need by some — plus an indoor ice rink, a third rec center on the south end of Evergreen, a parking garage at the Evergreen Lake House, an indoor walking track, more indoor swimming, a better trail system and more.
They asked for a wider variety of classes for all age groups offered at more times, more concerts, better access for teens and more during the sessions that are the first step in the rec district’s strategic-planning process.
Some also understood that the district needed to take care of the facilities it has first, and one person suggested that if the district wanted to expand facilities, it should consider purchasing and retrofitting existing vacant buildings within the district rather than building something new.
The two two-hour sessions are the first of several planned in the next two weeks. Most of those meetings, which will be in person, cover specific topics such as programs, facilities and special populations. The rec district is interested in all views about what the rec district should or should not be.
By July, the EPRD board hopes to have a completed plan with a list of activities and facilities, their costs and what it can afford. The board also will decide whether the ask voters in
November for a bond to pay for some of the facilities.
A community member at one of the Jan. 19 meetings mentioned a bond that will be paid off in 2025. The board could ask voters to continue paying that money to the rec district for additional facilities.
Chris Dropinski, senior manager with BerryDunn, the consultant hired to facilitate the strategic-planning process, said at the meetings that no decisions had been made, and EPRD officials were gathering information on what the community wanted the rec district’s focus to be.
In addition to the discovery sessions, the district will conduct a survey and take online comments, plus those in the district’s two rec centers can leave comments there.
“There will be competing priorities and limited resources,” Becky Dunlap with BerryDunn said. “We want to be visionary but realistic. There needs to be a balance between new programs and facilities while also maintaining what we have. We will need community support to move projects forward.”
Officials said while they will consider all of the comments they receive, they will not be able to provide everything the community wants.
Attendees suggested that EPRD make decisions based on what facilities and programs would bring the most benefit to the most people, though revenue should not necessarily be the deciding factor. They suggested looking at alternative funding sources to help pay for some of the programs and facilities.
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