A vision of Schutte Park’s future: Council approved Master Plan but funding issues could cause delays

DOVER — The future of Schutte Park will feature a finished loop trail, expanded field space, a disc golf course, rain gardens and a skate park, as well as many other aesthetic improvements.

Well, that’s if Ann Marie Townshend, Dover’s director of planning and community development, and her staff in the city’s planning department have their way.

The initial vision, known as the Schutte Park Master Plan, is to have all of these improvements installed in four separate phases over the next eight years.

However, Mrs. Townshend cautions that those plans might be somewhat ambitious, but that is what she and her staff are hoping for.

“State grant funding that has been used to help improve the city’s parks is currently not available, which makes it a bit of a challenge,” Mrs. Townshend said. “The anticipated time frame represents an ideal schedule, but the actual implementations might be slower.

Kamaui Sudler, 12, dribbles past Ahmad Scott, 13, in the Beiser-West Gym at Schutte Park in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“There are city funds available for this fiscal year but no funds for the state matching portion.”

Nonetheless, Dover’s City Council unanimously voted to approve the Schutte Park Master Plan, a product of the City of Dover Recreation Needs Assessment, at its Feb. 27 meeting. No expenditure was required to go with passing the plan.

At a Council Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 14, City Council President Timothy A. Slavin asked Mrs. Townshend to verify that “adopting the plan would not bind council to doing these projects” and that “they would be brought up through the appropriation process.”

Mrs. Townshend responded that everything would go through the normal budget process.

“The master plan is a long-range plan for the development of the park,” she said. “With council’s approval, we will now be moving on to do design for stormwater management and the park’s entrance design and then we will move on to get cost estimates and begin improvements.”

Phase 1 of the Schutte Park Master Plan is scheduled to take place in 2017-’18.

The first phase includes things such as: finishing the loop trail around the park, installing a disc golf course, paving and striping existing parking lots and grading and seeding the area west of the former Wyoming Mill Road and beginning to use additional field space.

Mrs. Townshend noted that people really wanted to see trail loops and they let her and her staff know that at a public workshop that was held regarding Schutte Park on July 20, 2016.

City Planner Eddie Diaz attended that meeting and received several ideas from members of the community, many of which made their way into the master plan.

“Some of the feedback from that was a skate park would be a good idea for this area,” he said. “People are also looking for exercise stations along the (walking/jogging) paths. There’s a proposal for disc golf in the park. There are several good ideas as to how we can improve Schutte Park.”

The running/walking path is the park’s most popular attraction. The completion of the loop would make the trail eight-tenths of a mile long.

“We get a lot of use on the multi-purpose trail so we want to take that and make it a full loop. So if your kids have an activity at the park, you can go for a run or walk,” Mrs. Townshend said. “There is now a path that extends along the front edge of Hazlettville Road and south on Electric Avenue, but there are no trail loops.

“So walkers and joggers must go out and come back on the same path.”

She added the proposed path would go down Wyoming Mill Road and also divide the field areas at the location of the old right-of-way for the former alignment of Wyoming Mill Road. The trail would also extend south past the softball fields along the tree line and go back to the Little League complex.

The following three phases – with the final one including construction of a skate park – are scheduled to take place in two-year increments until 2024.

Schutte Park currently offers four lighted softball fields, 10 multi-purpose fields that are primarily used for soccer and lacrosse, playground equipment, walking paths, a wooded trail, a cross country course and a pavilion. The John W. Pitts Recreation Center includes indoor basketball courts and community rooms.

The City of Dover Recreation Needs Assessment was approved by city council on Aug. 10, 2015. It is the primary planning document for all of the city parks.

Among the implementation strategies named in the plan is a recommendation that master plans be developed for each of Dover’s three anchor parks, which include Schutte Park, Silver Lake Park and Dover Park.

The latter two parks will have their master plans released later this year.

“We’ve been working on how we plan for Schutte Park, primarily focusing on how we lay out the added field space, but also how we improve what we have,” Mrs. Townshend said.

“The idea is to plan for the additional field space and the parking that’s going to support it because the parking that we have now is fully utilized, but also other amenities that could help to improve the park.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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