Updates for Ewert Park, safety needs in parks, and trails with added connectivity were the ideas that attracted the most support of Joplin residents in a study that has been conducted toward development of a 10-year master plan for the city park system.

“We have more projects than we can fund,” Paul Bloomberg, Joplin’s parks and recreation director, said at a Wednesday night meeting at which residents were able to view potential projects that could become part of the plan. “We always have at this point in time” in past studies.

“There were three top ones,” Bloomberg said of the most widely supported categories of park projects. “You have connectivity and trails both pedestrian and bicycle. That was at the top of the list. One that was surprising to me was park safety. And obviously if you have been to our parks at night, they can be a little dark, so they need security lighting, cameras. That was an idea, and I totally agree. That is a big one. And Ewert pool is a big one with the splash water park.”

Another enhancement that was mentioned by many of those surveyed is upgrading the existing parks and their features.

It is yet to be determined how many projects will result from the plan. Bloomberg said that when a residents group is convened later this year to look at the input, the members will rank the suggestions by what they see as most important. That panel will make a recommendation to the City Council, and the council will make the final decision on the project list.

Brian Sturm, a landscape architect, is among those with Landworks Studio in Olathe, Kansas, who are formulating the master plan.

After gathering information about Joplin’s parks for almost four months, “we can say that this is a city with a wealth of park resources and tremendous appreciation among its population for outdoor recreation of all kinds,” Sturm said.

When they were hired for the project, they were assigned by city staff to come up with a plan that builds on what the city already has in its parks. “Then we heard from the people we interacted with; we heard the same thing,” Sturm said. “The people wanted us to take the parks we already have and enhance them.”

The plan that the team is preparing to complete focuses on five goals.

Goal No. 1 was to establish destination projects that would attract people to Joplin’s parks.

Among a list of 29 possibilities that came from the input of residents and city staff, Ewert Park projects hold a few potential projects. Those are to replace the pool with a splash park, construction of a bike track that is attractive to children learning bike skills, and construction of a covered basketball court and an amphitheater to add to the park activities.

Some of the other choices for the plan’s first goal:

• Build a driving range for Schifferdecker Golf Course.

• Install or replace synthetic turf at the soccer fields, ballfields and Miracle Field at the Joplin Athletic Center as well as for Wendell Redden and Joe Becker infield and outfield.

• Development of a Dover Hill bike park.

• Addition of shelters and restrooms at smaller parks, including McIndoe and Wildcat.

A second goal was established to consider trail connectivity projects.

Those include:

• Katy Trail segments, and underpasses in the area of Landreth Park, Main Street and the Frisco Trailhead.

• Build shared-use paths on East 44th Street, South Main Street, sections of Tin Cup Trail, Junge Boulevard and North Schifferdecker Avenue.

The third goal is to prioritize safety projects of installing cameras at 11 parks and security lighting at 10 parks.

Goal No. 4 is to install educational signs at six parks, interpretative signs at four parks, information kiosks at all 28 parks and cemeteries, and updated lettering on Cunningham Park entry signs.

The fifth goal is to cultivate health and wellness by projects such as the installation of fitness equipment on trails at Landreth Park, resurface 28 sports courts at nine parks, add outdoor games at McIndoe, Schifferdecker, Landreth, Cunningham, Leonard, Humphrey and McClelland parks.

Hannah Elliott was one of about 30 residents who attended Wednesday’s sneak peek of the ideas for the master plan. She did not see as much proposed development of mountain biking trails as she had hoped when she attended a public input session in November with about two dozen others interested in seeing development of that type of trail.

“I think that what they are trying to step towards doing in the next 10 years is a big project,” Elliott said. That involves a parking lot and two downhill tracks at Dover Hill and a pump track at Ewert. “But we’re not talking like a whole lot of miles of mountain biking and elevations,” she said.

A pump track is defined by enthusiasts as looped sequence of rollers and berms. It is designed to maximize momentum, so one can ride with minimal pedaling, they say.

Though supporters hoped for more in the plan, resident Schulyer Carr said the sport ranked as a medium priority because it did not have as much widespread mention by those surveyed as other needs and wants.

“They were judging it three different ways,” Carr said. “It was based on who all showed up last time” at the November meeting, “those who voiced their opinion in an online survey and about 1,000 people surveyed by mail. Hardly any of those people mentioned mountain biking,” Carr said he was told.

Sturm said the final plan will be completed this week and will be outlined at a Feb. 8 City Council meeting.

Sales tax fundingThe parks master plan proposes projects that could be done if voters approve the renewal of a quarter-cent parks and stormwater sales tax. It is expected that the City Council will consider placing the tax question on the August ballot. The tax, which expires every 10 years, was first proposed in 2001 and renewed in 2011.

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