Dover working on master plan for parks

 

The city of Dover is putting together a master plan to explore the recreational needs of the residents. Dover Park, shown above, located on White Oak Road between U.S. 13 and Del. 1, will be one of the first parks on which the city will focus.  (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The city of Dover is putting together a master plan to explore the recreational needs of the residents. Dover Park, shown above, located on White Oak Road between U.S. 13 and Del. 1, will be one of the first parks on which the city will focus. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — City officials hope to continue to prioritize residents’ outdoor recreational needs moving forward, with the next step being creation of a master plan for the city’s parks.

“I’ve only been responsible for this department since 2012,” said Anne Marie Townshend, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

Anne Marie Townshend

Anne Marie Townshend

“There hasn’t been one in the last 10 years. That’s why we’re trying to do this for our parks in general.

“We did the citywide needs assessment, so now it’s time for this,” she said.

“We already had a lot of the base information, so now it’s time to get everything going.”

The recreational-needs assessment helps the city plan the future of Dover’s parks and recreation programs.

Of Dover’s estimated population of 37,540, a total of 506 people responded to the assessment.

Ms. Townshend said the department will go park by park and compile information into an overall master plan to help improve the parks in the future.

Dover Park, located on White Oak Road between U.S. 13 and Del. 1, will be one of the first parks on which the city will focus.

Its wooded 28.2 acres also include softball fields, a playground, pavilions, basketball courts, tennis courts, disc golf and more.

The Social Action Commission’s Task Force of Mount Zion A.M.E. Church on Queen Street conducted its own survey of more than 300 residents as well.

“We’re going to be putting out a request for proposals to select a consultant and we will start by mapping what exists in Dover Park,” Ms. Townshend said.

“We will collect the information that we have already through the surveys that exist through the needs assessment and the Mt. Zion survey.”

Ms. Townshend anticipates it to be a six- to nine-month process to put together the master plan.

“We’re going to start the process late summer,” Ms. Townshend said. “We’re going to hire a consultant to come in and give us an estimate of how much improvements are expected to cost.

“Everything is budgeted, so we’re trying to make the best improvements moving forward.”

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

Dover Park once included a recreation center building, constructed in the 1970s. Time took a toll on the building and between deterioration and water penetration it became obsolete. Council voted to demolish it in 2014.

Since then there has been many discussions on whether a new facility should be built, but Ms. Townshend believes the city needs to gather as much information as possible before making that decision.

“The biggest reason that people go to Dover Park is to walk and jog,” she said. “So we’re going to be looking at improving amenities for walking and jogging.

“We will look at a building, as to where it will go, but once we have a park plan then you start to develop cost estimates for it to see how much it will go and then you start to phase and prioritize it.”

She said the department will hold public meetings to get additional information, as to what the residents want for the park.

“The surveys are an important tool, but they don’t give you all the answers,” Ms. Townshend said.

“They give you a snapshot and I think if you take information and put it together and put it with the public responses is where we get the best results.”

City Councilman and Parks and Recreation committee member James Hosfelt agreed.

James Hosfeldt

James Hosfeldt

“I think a combination of both is great,” Councilman Hosfelt said. “When you hold public meetings you get to engage in talks with residents in that community.

“You get to draw ideas from one another and discuss different options. I think some good ideas can come from that.”

Ms. Townshend said the city hopes to make other improvements to the park as well.

“One of the things that we do know is that we need to address vegetation management and lighting because that contributes to people’s concerns about safety,” Ms. Townshend said.

“We have the ability to install cameras that will tie into the police’s network,” she added.

“A lot of the concerns that we heard about the Dover Park relates to safety and we want to make sure as we plan improvements to the park that we address safety concerns.”

Ms. Townshend believes it’s a misconception that there aren’t any recreational uses at the Dover Park.

“The softball fields get utilized,” Ms. Townshend said. “There are a number of activities being planned over there and I’m anticipating that there may be some soccer practices there as well.

“I think it’s a misconception that there’s nothing going on over there. The parks get used on a regular basis especially with the weather getting better you’re going to see a lot of families out there.”

Councilman Hosfelt said the city has to continue to look at what’s best for the Dover Park by looking at in a city-wide aspect and not just what the residents in that community want.

“I think that’s important,” he said. “The residents that live in that community aren’t the only people that use that park.”

“People from all over the city use it, so I think we need to take that into consideration as well,” he said.

“We have to get views from both sides and from that make the necessary improvements to the park.”

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