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The Master Plan was needed as the department had benefited from the community’s overwhelming support passing a one-cent sales tax without a sunset to fund parks and recreation initiatives, as well as other city and county projects. The Master Plan has also been a roadmap for the department to define and achieve its goals and implement a guiding vision to continue providing high quality parks, open spaces, trails, recreation facilities and programs to the citizens of Lawrence.
Over the 14 years since the development of the plan, the department has undergone its own transformation. While encountering a recession, when other agencies across the state were cutting workforces, Lawrence Parks and Recreation prioritized ways to continue its upward momentum, doing more with less and staying the course to provide high-quality programs and services to enhance the overall quality of life of the Lawrence community.
Now while the Master Plan is somewhat outdated, Lawrence Parks and Recreation hasn’t stopped its development planning or engagement with the community. In 2002, the department developed a Master Plan for a 1515-acre leased property from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The property lease would later increase in size to 1612-acres, which it continues to develop as need and funding arises.
One area of the 2000 Master Plan that Lawrence Parks and Recreation staff were cognizant of was the ever-growing need for facility space (see page 4). Midway through the decade, a taskforce was formed and financed by the City of Lawrence, Douglas County, Lawrence Public Schools and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to do an in-depth study of facility needs in the community. This committee, known as Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Public Youth (PLAY), conducted a needs assessment and feasibility study, evaluating the need and potential support for state of the art competitive and recreational sports venues for the community.
The PLAY study of 2006 looked at indoor and outdoor competitive and recreational sports venues within Lawrence. Within the study, it was recognized that an indoor fieldhouse was highly rated by the public survey and by those who attended stakeholders meetings. In the mid-to-late 2000s, Lawrence Parks and Recreation acquired Lawrence’s competitive baseball and softball leagues, as well as a competitive basketball league, further escalating the need for additional public facilities. The competitive leagues used many public venues, but there were some other facilities from Douglas County and private businesses used to facilitate league play prior to the City’s involvement of overseeing the leagues. Lawrence Parks and Recreation continued to partner with the public schools to use facilities for practices and recreational league games until new facilities were developed.
The department also held several public meetings, conducting surveys to see if citizens and parks and recreation patrons were open to increases in fees to participate in programs, activities and facilities. The public overwhelmingly was open for increases in fees. These public meetings led to further discussions with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to further develop the roadmap for the future. With the ever increasing need of facilities, trails and parks, in 2009 the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board held public meetings to prioritize needs. Citizens were asked to identify the most pressing needs within parks and recreation, which included parks, trails and outdoor and indoor recreational facilities. It also assessed the areas of town that were most in need. Besides public meetings to discuss Parks and Recreation priorities, an online survey yielded more than 1000 responses combined from citizens.
The engagement with the public went further with the City’s planning document Horizon 2020, developing parks and recreation’s reach into neighborhoods by moving the park standard from every half-mile to every quarter-mile (Chapter 9-page 180).
The City of Lawrence has also conducted citizen surveys to evaluate each department of the City and its services, charting their level of satisfaction. The department consistently scores as one of the highest departments with the city and when compared nationally the overall satisfaction ranks the department 11 percent higher than other communities’ satisfaction with their parks and recreation agencies, which puts Lawrence Parks and Recreation as one the very best agencies nationwide.
The realization of Sports Pavilion Lawrence has fulfilled many of the department’s goals. The partnerships formed throughout its development have also created new advances for further development in the future. With that said, Lawrence Parks and Recreation is currently assessing its current needs and prioritizing them. The list will be discussed with the Parks and Advisory Board to begin developing the plan and their time schedule. This will include further discussion with the public to get a sense of their needs and desires.
For questions, please contact the Parks and Recreation Administrative Office at (785) 832-3450.