CHARLOTTE – Sybil Barco’s two sons play soccer at Mecklenburg County parks every week. Sometimes, their practices have to be cut short after hearing gunshots or sirens in the area.
Barco and other residents gave feedback and suggestions for the future of the region’s park and recreation facilities at the county’s first round of meetings for their “Meck Playbook.” Her first priority is promoting safety in the parks.
The parks and recreation department, along with urban planners from Agency Landscape and Planning, are seeking out the community’s wants and needs for the county’s parks moving forward. They have done this through three workshops Nov. 20 and 21.
Poster boards at the workshops explain the county’s parks and recreation history and ask residents to identify their uses of the parks in the county, from socializing to exploring nature.
“It’s a chance for us to dig into the challenges, opportunities and aspirations of residents in the county for parks, for facilities, for programs, greenways,” senior urban planner Rhiannon Sinclair said. “This is us gathering information from them. We’re not really sharing information as it’s more of a chance for us to get to know all of you and get to know what we should be prioritizing.”
This is the first step of an 18-month process to develop a new parks and recreation plan. The last plan was developed in 2008 and updated in 2016.
“In the previous plan, there was definitely a focus on connectivity, so focusing on trails and greenways,” Sinclair said. “We are starting from scratch in this plan, knowing the county has grown a ton and it will continue to grow. We want to understand how sentiments or ideas have changed, so we’re starting off with these public workshops.”
Sinclair said the team will also conduct statistically valid surveys throughout the community. She said once feedback from workshops, surveys and online is received, they will have a comprehensive idea of what citizens’ priorities are.
Poster boards at the workshop identify open space, programs, public and cultural art and outdoor adventure courses as some of the county’s potential needs.
One board at the workshop explained that Mecklenburg County spends $50 per resident on parks and recreation annually, while the average county or city spends $89 per resident. Mecklenburg County hopes to increase spending per resident to create more equity in the parks system.
Barco hopes to see all parks given the same amount of attention moving forward.
“We’ve had to move around to different parks,” Barco said. “They started out practicing at Renaissance and the fields weren’t consistent for what you need for playing soccer, and now we’re at Southview, which is a lot better. But we’d like to see the same quality at all of the parks so that all of the people in the county have the same level and opportunity.”
The team working on the plan aims to make it flexible and structured in a way that allows for change. Sinclair said that by the end of the process, they will have strategies and a framework in place that will respond to the needs of the people.
Mecklenburg County residents are encouraged to give their feedback and suggestions for the Meck Playbook on an ongoing basis through the workshops or online and on social media.
Visit www.meckplaybook.com or follow on social media @meckparkrec to learn more.