WPRD calls for community input on Master Plan

Williston Area Recreation Center by Erica Kingston
Williston Area Recreation Center by Erica Kingston

“It is important to speak your voice and be a part of the Master Plan process because these are our parks and as a community, we can make them even better for many years to come.” -Emily O’Rear, WPRD

The Williston Parks and Recreation District is an integral part of the community that provides activities for the young and old. Behind all of what the district does, is meticulous planning to adequately provide for a growing population.

WPRD has just started the process of forming a Master Plan that will give direction and provide funding to the next five to ten years of operations. To tailor the plan to the needs of Williston, the parks district is seeking community feedback as to the future of their facilities and programming.

“The Master Plan itself is a comprehensive overview of our programs, parks and facilities,” WPRD Executive Director Joe Barsh said. “The end goal is that it gets us support to renew our funding in a measure that is deemed responsible by our community.”

The last Master Plan for the parks district was in 2014 and has since been finished and accomplished. All playgrounds have been updated or replaced since 2012.
“What can we do next in our parks?” Barsh asked. “Do we need to expand our playgrounds, do we need to add more athletic courts. That’s where the feedback comes in place. More tennis courts, pickleball courts, sports courts, more open green space? Are parks needed where they are not as the community grows? Where do we need to look at buying land as we expand and grow (as a community)?”

WPRD has provided a few different ways to give feedback through their website. One way is to participate in a focus group. These groups will be specific, based on age and interests, and meet in November for discussion. An application must be filled out by Oct. 20 and applicants will be selected to maintain diversity.

There is also a Master Plan public comment form, where comments and questions can be submitted as well as a “Heart of the Park” questionnaire that asks about favored parks and amenities in Williston. Site surveys will also be done by interviewing random people at the parks.

“It is invaluable to know what is currently loved and desired because the input we are receiving is being evaluated with the possibility of being incorporated,” said WPRD’s Emily O’Rear of marketing and public relations. “It is important to speak your voice and be a part of the Master Plan process because these are our parks and as a community, we can make them even better for many years to come.”

All feedback, whether from focus groups, online form submissions, site intercept surveys and the advisory group will be collected and condensed down into a Master Plan by Interstate Engineering. From there, operational expenses will be looked at and put into a voting strategy to provide funding. This process is hoped to be finished by March 2024.

The park district has not levied a dollar of property tax since 2012. The ARC was paid for through a bonding effort that stated they would operate via a one cent sales tax collection with a 20 year sunset date, with half the collections going toward operations of the park district and the other half to paying the bonds. If the bonds are paid off before 2032, funding will automatically revert back to property tax.

Barsh stated that WPRD does not wish for funding to revert back to property tax, especially not without the community’s input. School districts cannot receive sales tax funds for operations or construction and rely on property tax — WPRD does not want to compete with school funding. Public input is not only wanted  for the day-to-day operations of the parks, but equally for the future funding of the parks district.

To apply for a focus group or submit comments on the future of the parks, go to willistonparks.com/wprd-master-plan.

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