By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 12/10/19
After gathering information through surveys on potential changes to Purcell Park, LSG Landscape Architecture and Greenplay presented its findings to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission on Monday.
Among the many suggestions the community has given to improve the park, high priority items were picnic tables, year round restrooms, additional trail connectivity, upgrading the playground and addressing flooding issues.
“People don’t hate the park. They love it, actually. They just are saying there are some issues and upgrades that need to be made,” Robby Layton from LSG said during the presentation. “No one is telling us the location is terrible, and no one is saying, ‘We should start all over.’” Employees were present at the forum from the consultant firm, which acts as a management tool for agencies by organizing teams that are responsive and understand the needs of their communities to provide services for park, recreation and open space, according to its website.
Amol Deshp Ande from LSG said there have been no final decisions made on the plan. The final location for the playground in the new master plan would probably be near to where it currently is. He said moving the baseball fields to the Smithland Road Athletic Complex is a possibility to allow for more informal space at Purcell Park.
Luanne Santangelo, Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation director, said the project would be done in phases, which would help with planning and budgeting.
She said the first phase would focus on the 27-year-old playground, and the second would be relocating the athletic fields.
During the presentation, Layton said the survey showed a need for activities for a wider age range and more safety.
The survey questions were formed based on information collected during a series of stakeholder meetings, focus group sessions, a public forum, playground workshop, visits to city schools and other meetings in the city.
Seven city schools participated in the survey, in addition to seven stakeholder interviews, five community focus groups, which had more than 110 participants, and one city staff focus group.
Around 3,500 surveys were mailed to people across the city, and 384 were completed. There were 616 open link surveys completed.
Ande said that at the Sept. 19 workshop at Kids Castle, more than 50 children participated and drew pictures of what they would like to see at the park.
Ande said it seemed as though most people have nostalgia for Kids Castle, and that will be respected when moving forward with the new park design.
“Almost every kid wants zip lines so that’s something we have to acknowledge,” Ande said.
He said with kids going to many different playgrounds, including A Dream Come True Playground, they know what amenities can be available to them.
“Kids Castle is unique — distinctly different than A Dream Come True — and the kids like that and want to keep that,” he said. “They want diversity and different types of activities that can contribute to the unique character of the playground that also allows them to be imaginative.”
To kids and parents, safety is a concern.
“Kids want to be able to play hide-and-seek but parents want to be able to see their kids so we have to find a way to get both,” Ande said.
Children also requested a quiet zone for kids with sensitivity impairments.
One child requested “a store with free winter jackets and ice cream in the summer,” according to Ande.
Other requests from all ages included having more amenities available for people of all ages.
“Whatever we do in the future, we want to stay in lines of what is appreciated — like Kids Castle — and that is creating an identity for the park,” Ande said.
The Purcell Park master plan is expected to be finished in February or March.