Throughout 2023, the City Parks and Recreation Department gathered public input and incorporated it all into master plans for some of its most-used parks.
NOTE TO READERS: A lot happened in Columbus throughout 2023, including at the City of Columbus. In the spirit of the holiday season, we want to take a moment to highlight the stories that City staff and leaders identified among their favorites of the year. We also took into account comments and readership stories received on the City’s website and social media channels. Here’s story No. 2!
Throughout 2023, the City Parks and Recreation Department gathered public input and incorporated it all into master plans for some of its most-used parks. In 2024, officials will continue aiming to bring those plans to fruition by steadily making upgrades to parks the public indicated they would most like to see improved.
Master plans were created for Gerrard, Pawnee and Centennial parks in 2023 and have left City Parks and Recreation Director Betsy Eckhardt feeling excited as 2024 takes shape.
“These were all much-needed facility upgrades,” Eckhardt said. “I think making these upgrades at a facility like Gerrard that gets 8,000 visitors per year helps make us that much more competitive.”
City staff got the process rolling with the public in early 2023 with an easy online survey about what they would like to see happen as far as upgrades to Gerrard and Pawnee parks.
After getting initial public survey feedback, City officials and representatives from creative firm Confluence decided to engage the public again in early May 2023 with an open house. During the two-hour open house in downtown Columbus, attendees were asked to review maps of the parks and put colored dots on them to indicate what features they would like to see and their potential location. The public was also encouraged to and did participate in an online survey.
The data from the open house and online surveys were all factored into the Pawnee Park/Gerrard Park Master Plan which can be viewed by clicking here.
The Master Plan will give both parks much-needed facelifts. The plan for Gerrard calls for the creation of four dual-purpose courts for tennis and pickleball and three stand-alone pickleball courts, among other things.
The old tennis courts were something members of the public have requested be upgraded over the years. Pickleball is now considered the fastest-growing sport in America with a 40% increase in players since 2019, according to the New York Times, because it caters to people of all ages. It’s a paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton.
“This will help maximize the space for people,” Eckhardt said.
One of the biggest requests from the public for Pawnee Park was to upgrade Memorial Stadium. That process began over the summer with the replacement of the artificial turf there. You can learn more about that by clicking here.
City staff opted to create a master plan for Centennial Park in-house to save on expenses, collecting more public feedback along the way. It ultimately got the approval of the Columbus City Council. You can view the full plan by clicking here and then clicking ‘Centennial Park Master Plan” on the left.
“Rejuvenate Centennial Park into a vibrant, inclusive, and modern destination that caters to the diverse needs and desires of our community members. Enhance the park’s facilities and services to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for everyone,” the plan’s vision statement reads. “Accomplishing this by providing a modern concessions, restroom, and maintenance facility. Revitalize facilities to breathe life into under-utilized recreational amenities. Improve parking and lighting for pedestrian safety while maintaining easy access for all users. All with the vision of transforming this park into a vibrant, inviting, and modern destination that unites our community and ensures its usage and safety for the future.”
The Master Plan calls for ballfield and play equipment improvements, additional parking, picnic tables, and a splash pad, as well as better concessions, restrooms and more.
During the Dec. 18, 2023, Columbus City Council meeting, Councilman Charlie Bahr said he was happy to see improvements coming to Centennial Park. On Dec. 28, he reiterated his excitement for the entire process of creating master plans for all three parks.
“These are the public’s parks, so I’m thrilled they took the time to give us that input and hopefully we can accommodate what they’re asking for,” Bahr said, noting he feels City staff and Confluence did an excellent job of getting public input and developing the plans. “I think we are headed down the right path.”
Eckhardt said it was a busy year for Parks and Rec, but stressed it was all worth it. She’s excited to continue offering more programming and see work progress on master plans for the respective parks.
“I’m thrilled the community shared their vision with us and that we get to bring it to life,” she said.
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