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City parks and recreation department master plan draft reveals goals for new features, expansions

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Greenfield Parks Dept. master gardener Joe Whitfield plants some new arrangements at Beckenholdt Family Park in this file photo. The department's master plan includes plans to possibly expand the nature park and add to its dog park area. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Greenfield Parks Dept. master gardener Joe Whitfield plants some new arrangements at Beckenholdt Family Park in this file photo. The department's master plan includes plans to possibly expand the nature park and add to its dog park area. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Dreaming of soaking up some rays beside a pristine pool? How about taking a hike along a nature trail?

Greenfield city officials are not only looking forward to spring, but they’re looking ahead to the next five years of improvements to the city’s parks.

The Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department recently released a draft of its new five-year master plan, which details goals ranging from new water features for Riley Pool to expanded trails at several city parks.

While the updated plan has been several months in the making and has already generated public feedback, city officials are welcoming more comments before the parks board gives final approval next month.

Ellen Kuker, parks director, said the plan – the culmination of several months of compiling public surveys, interviewing community stakeholders and holding open meetings – is something to work toward in the near future.

“The product that we’ve been given is a workable, realistic master plan,” Kuker said.

The plan lists each city park’s strengths and weaknesses, giving ideas on how they can be improved.

While Riley Pool has been listed in the last two city master plans to be completely redone, the new plan has a toned-down approach. Kuker said as more people are heading to nearby communities with a water park feel, Riley Pool should at least be updated with a few colorful umbrellas and spray features.

But a new pool, Kuker said, might still be financially out of reach for now.

“There is an opportunity with a bond in a couple of years,” Kuker said, because the bond for the Pat Elmore Center will soon be paid off. “If I can gauge interest, we’ll begin doing the foundational work with maybe a new plan or revisit the one that was done and just see if there are features or components from that we can add. It wouldn’t be $4 million like the original plan was. It all just comes down to money.”

Jill Carr, a parks board member, says it’s hard for the city to keep the pool financially stable, especially now that schools have switched to balanced calendars making the summertime shorter. But local officials have long hesitated at the cost of a brand new pool with slides and zero-depth entry.

“It would be nice to have a water park and be competitive with the public parks around us,” Carr said.

The master plan calls for changes at the city’s major parks. Beckenholdt Park, Greenfield’s nature park on the northwest side, could be expanded by about 30 acres. Kuker said city officials are in discussion with land owners to the west and south of the park; acquiring more land could mean more trails and even a second dog park. The original dog park at Beckenholdt is so popular it needs to be divided up or added onto, she said.

“The animals are just wearing the grass thin to the point that we’re going to have to do something,” Kuker said.

More trails could also be in the works at Brandywine Park. The plan calls for a one-mile walking path around the park, and city officials are still hoping to connect Brandywine Park to the Pennsy Trail along Morristown Pike. That idea has been discussed for years, but city officials have run into problems with land acquisition.

Riley Park could see more open space in the near future. The master plan calls for three of the park’s four baseball diamonds to be moved to land at Greenfield Central Junior High School.

Kuker said the city swapped Mary Moore Park to G-C years ago with the plan of using land at the junior high for baseball diamonds. If fields are moved, that would provide more green space in Riley Park.

Lesser-known parks are also addressed in the master plan. Thornwood Preserve, 20 acres of donated land on the city’s southeast side, could get a parking lot and a nature building in the near future. Kuker said so far the park is not well known to the general public, but city officials have high hopes of it one day becoming a place where residents can experience wildlife along natural pathways.

Wilson Greenway, seven acres on the city’s northeast side, needs better signage, promotion and a pavilion, according to the plan. Kuker said currently the park is tucked behind a residential area and is hard to find.

The 20-acre Macy Park on the city’s far east side has the potential of becoming a neighborhood park with a softball field and small playground. The donated land has not yet been developed into a park.

While Kuker said the lesser-known parks need plenty of work and promotion, the entire parks department should be publicized more. The plan calls for greater marketing of the city’s facilities and programs. Kuker said many people from the public commented that they didn’t know what the city has to offer and didn’t know where to look for answers.

The master plan draft can be found on the city’s website, city hall or at the Pat Elmore Center. Kuker said feedback on the plan is welcome through Feb. 3, at which point the city’s consultant could make a few additional tweaks before the park board approves the document Feb. 19.

Meanwhile, Kuker also plans on filling in the city council and Mayor Chuck Fewell on the draft, and she hopes it will be a collaborative vision for the city’s future.

“I don’t believe this is a plan that just sits on a shelf and creates dust,” Kuker said. “This is a working plan; this is a roadmap for the parks department for the next five years.”

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