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City of Sweetwater Parks Master Plan

PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES

It is intended that this document will be actively used and referenced by City staff as well as appointed and elected officials as a means to inform the decision making process regarding the development and oversight of the parks system.  This planning effort was initiated by the City of Sweetwater with intent to guide the City's parks system in its role in meeting the needs of the community residents.  This plan is the first of its type for the City of Seetwater and will provide an important foundation for both near-term and future park recreation and leisure opporutnities.  This chapter sets up the beginning phases of the planning process by providing the community context for the planning area. 

WHY PLAN A PARK SYSTEM

The trust that a local community plances in its government begins and ends with the city's ability to be good stewards of the community facilities and capital resources.  A plan is an invaluable tool for collecting and documenting the necessary information needed to identify improvements, additions, and expenditure of thos eresources.  Parks are city facilities that directly impact the qulity of life assessments that existing and future residents make.  This is improtant to understanding the trole parks and open spaces play in supporitng a community that is a vibrant and desireable place to live. 

Parks and other civic spaces are the pbulics' primary destinations for exercise, play, fellowship, and other leisure actvitites.  The ab ility to participate in these are definitive to how people view the quality of their community.  The City of Sweetwater Parks Master Plan has been prepared in recognition of this.  It also addresses on the following six key public benefits of the parks. 

1. Parks Promote Active and Healthy Lifestyles

For many, life has become an overwhelming sedentary routine where exercise needs are met through an intentional action as opposed to the byproduct of everyday activity. This requires a built environment that allows for and encourages people to be active.  Parks and open spaces provide the opportunities for both active and passive recreation. Active recreation includes organized sports and

activities that require specific spaces for recreation or play. Passive recreation activities may include hiking, biking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing — opportunities which promote interaction with nature and have a smaller imprint on the natural environment.  Recreational opportunities benefit a person’s physical and mental health. Exercise is a key component to physical health, while mental health is affected by social opportunities and the restorative effects of interaction with nature.

2. Parks Contribute to a Sense of Community

Parks are places to socialize, participate in groups or clubs, and meet new people. Some may talk with another parent as their children use a nearby play structure, while others may find common interests with other pet owners during the interactions afforded at a dog park. These social interactions help build a safe, connected, and friendly community.  Parks also provide an opportunity for community service and participation in group events or leagues. A neighborhood group can volunteer to maintain a specific park through an Adopt-A-Park program. Residents can become instructors for programs or coaches for athletic leagues. Special events and festivals hosted in local parks are great ways to get to know neighbors and local businesses.

3. Parks Provide a Safe Haven to Youth

Parks and recreation programs, specifically those targeted towards teens and youth, can have a positive social impact by providing a supervised and safe environment. Organized sports as well as unstructured activities such as skateboarding, increase interaction with peers, provide opportunities to be mentored by positive role models, and help develop life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and decision-making.

4. Parks Increase Tourism

People will visit a community because of local attractions, including parks with desirable facilities or unique features. Festivals, concerts, sports tournaments, and special events typically take place in community owned public spaces. Even museums, observatories, and sometimes libraries can be located within or adjacent to a park to increase community offerings in a central location. Sweetwater and the surrounding area is already a destination for activities such rodeos, hunting, and camping/RVing. Capitalizing on these existing attractions and enhancing those experiences is a way to increase local revenues.

5. Parks Contribute to the Economy

Parks improve local economies by increasing residential property values through what is known as the Proximate Principle. This concept recognizes that people will pay more for a home when it is close to a park or green space. The higher the home values, the more revenue from property tax rolls. The Proximate Principle extends beyond residential property. The relationship between private business and parks has a positive impact through an increase in demand for services. Hotels and restaurants that overlook a park, lake, or garden see increased customer satisfaction versus those without similar views. Entrepreneurs look to take advantage of proximity to trails, water bodies, and other park facilities to offer services such as rentals, repairs, and retail. These relationships often lead to positive experiences and reviews and in turn generate more business and tax revenue for the community.

6. Parks Promote Conservation

Parks, open spaces, and conservation lands remind us of our roles and responsibilities as stewards to the land. Proper practices and approaches to storm water runoff reduce flooding, prioritize clean water, and promote wise use of resources. The use of native plantings and water wise reclamation approaches have the potential to provide mutually beneficial relationships of lower maintenance costs and opportunities for passive recreation. This approach is geared to providing wildlife viewing opportunities along walking or biking trails. Finally, the identification or set aside of park land and open space is complimentary to the build out of a city. Understanding where future park land or open space should be located can encourage new development to occur in a manner that promotes other city goals and interests, such as protecting environmentally sensitive areas or buffering undesirable land uses.

TPWD CONSISTENCY

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) provides guidance for the development of a Parks Master Plan. Their guidance is intended to help municipalities organize park planning initiatives in a manner that improves the chances of being awarded points through the “Project Priority Scoring System,” which is used as part of a ranking for project funds through a matching grant program administered by TPWD. The guidelines are ancillary to TPWD’s desire to ensure an equitable manner for awarding funds to communities throughout Texas. Additionally, the guidelines promote a process that generates locally sponsored projects and are reflective of the community’s wants and needs. A TPWD consistent plan includes the following organizational components: plan goals and objectives, park land and facility standards, inventory of existing parks and park facilities, a needs assessment, an implementation strategy, and prioritization list of needs. These plan components are complimented by public input and outreach, maps, graphics, and photos that add support and explanation to the issues covered in the plan.

 

CLICK HERE to veiw the entire Master Parks Plan