A plan to invest an estimated $82 million in land and facilities during the next five years has been approved by the Columbus Park Board.
With little discussion, the board voted unanimously to adopt the blueprint for future parks development that parks director Mark Jones said could go well beyond five years — perhaps to 10 to 20 years.
The master plan was put together by consultant Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf of Indianapolis, presented to about 20 members of the public Dec. 7 at Donner Center by consultant Ryan P. Cambridge, a planning practice leader for the company.
“When we see requests for major repairs or installations, they should be framed against the master plan,” parks board member Julie Abedian said Thursday of how the plan will be used.
The 250-page document focuses on several recreational concentration areas, including:
Increasing the amount of park land and recreation areas available to Columbus residents.
Creating a multi-generational hub for indoor recreation, athletics, fitness and programming.
Continuing to build trail infrastructure, more nature offerings and programming.
Further investment in Columbus’ two city-run golf courses.
The plan does not give a specific recommendation about the 70-year-old Donner Center, but points out the aging facility has significant maintenance issues that are hampering its use and currently does not meet the community’s need for a fitness or community center.
“We still have to figure out the indoor recreation part of the plan,” Jones told parks board members before the vote Thursday at Columbus City Hall.
Possible solutions to provide the indoor recreational include building a new facility somewhere in Columbus on city-owned land, refurbishing and revamping Donner Center as an indoor recreational facility, or tearing down Donner Center and building a new facility on that site, the plan states.
The parks department will also be working closely with the city’s engineering and planning departments to encourage developers to work with the city to include park areas within new housing developments, Jones said.
Priority spaces for new park development include Shadow Creek Farms, a west-side housing development; Abbey Place, a 300-home development planned for Columbus’ northside; and Eighth Street Park, just north of Mill Race Center.
Golf courses losing money
The plan also calls for the city to provide strategic upgrades at its two golf courses, Par 3 and Greenbelt, including clubhouse improvements, better amenities and better infrastructure.
The two golf courses had $9,277 more in expenses than revenue through November, said Pam Harrell, the parks department’s director of business services. Ending balances through November with general fund personnel services, but without capital costs, showed expenses exceeding revenues by $74,089.
Revenues through October were down 21 percent from projections.
Jones said it is the second full year for the city parks department to operate the golf courses, which are not yet breaking even.
“We have pretty bare-bones staffing out there, and the golf course is dependent on the weather — which kept some people away this summer,” he said.
Golf course staff are planning some outreach over the winter to gain more community support and memberships, he said. Parks board members briefly discussed installing some sort of shelter and seating area at the golf course facilities, so groups would have a place for event gatherings.
The master plan calls for the city to consider some private-sector partners to help pay for the improvements for the golf courses.
One parks facility that is not included in the five-year master plan is the Mill Race Amphitheater, which was considered for improvements and upgrades during the administration of former Mayor Kristen Brown, but as a project has since been shelved.
In July 2014, city officials learned from a consultant that cost estimates to improve the facility could range from $3 million to $4 million-plus to construct a new, wider stage, add seating and a canopy over the audience and side curtains.
At the Dec. 7 meeting, Cambridge said the issue with the amphitheater was the projected costs to make needed improvements.
Work being done at the amphitheater by parks department staff has been limited to maintenance, including painting and cleaning up beneath the stage where water damage is occurring, Jones said.
The Columbus Parks and Recreation staff will make presentations of the five-year city parks master plan to service groups and city boards including the Columbus Plan Commission, to encourage buy-in, parks director Mark Jones said.
City and past five-year master plans for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department can be found on the department’s web site.