BOCC hears about parks master plan


What do the current residents of Nassau County want most in the way of new, county-led opportunities for recreation? That’s one of the questions a consultant hired by the county believes he has answered.

In a workshop held Monday, David Barth of Barth & Associates shared with the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners the progress he’s made since January on a Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan for the county. Barth reviewed the citizen and county staff input he’s received so far in addition to reviewing “probably two dozen” studies previously completed for the county on topics such as urban design, transportation, stormwater, and the environment, and extracting information relevant to park planning.

Barth concentrated his focus around several areas in addition to what people said they wanted in the way of amenities, the gaps in the county where there is nothing available, the county government’s vision for the future, and how to ensure it is a “financially viable and functional system.”

The company took surveys from almost a thousand people, conducted interviews, focus groups and public workshops, and performed demographic and trends assessments in order to come to its conclusions. “The themes that bubbled up became the priorities,” Barth said.

So, what did people say they want most? In the way of facilities, multi-use trails, pools, indoor recreation/community centers, additional large parks, and multi-use fields came to the top. In the program category, community special events and fitness/wellness were priorities. Other top priorities, Barth found, are beach access, natural areas/nature parks, restrooms, fishing piers, and dog parks. One interesting trend Barth said they found was a potential need for more golf courses in the county.

In evaluating the current facilities, Barth found that American Beach Community Center and Museum, Goffinsville Park, and the John F. Claxton Boat Ramp ranked highest in meeting current expectations. The improvements found to be needed most at the majority of county parks were updating, repair, and replacement of aging and damaged landscaping, hardscaping, equipment and facilities, and shaded sidewalks and transit connections to the surrounding community. In reviewing operations, he found maintenance standards need to be set and the park maintenance staff needs to be trained.

A public workshop showed the No. 1 priority for spending was for indoor/outdoor pools and aquatic centers and No. 2 was multi-use trails, sidewalks, and bikeways. But in a “Summary of Level of Service Analysis,” Barth found “it appears Nassau County may be in need of amphitheaters/stages, baseball fields, playgrounds” and other facilities.

In a slide showing where people say they go now, 58% said they use the park at Peters Point, and barriers to the use of other facilities include not knowing where to go or what is offered. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are either very or somewhat satisfied with the current parks, and 40% were very or somewhat satisfied with the number of parks. Fifty-five percent of respondents were very or somewhat supportive of increasing taxes and 47% were supportive of increasing fees to fund parks, trails, and recreation facilities.

Barth told the board that workshops with the county staff would happen in the next several days to talk about “possible partnering opportunities” with the other local governments.

Commissioner Pat Edwards said he thought the biggest problem today is politics. He urged his fellow commissioners to pick several projects of the “top ones” that can actually be done. Commissioners Justin Taylor, Aaron Bell, and Tom Ford agreed with picking one or two priorities to do well, emphasizing the people want to see results.