By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 8/28/19
HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation is holding a public forum next week to gain input from those interested in redesigns and upgrades to Purcell Park.
The forum will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Lucy Simms Center, 620 Simms Ave.
Parks and Rec hired a consultant firm, LSG Landscape Architecture, to be a part of the process to make upgrades, but also to help the city develop a Master Plan for Purcell Park.
“This won’t be an overnight process,” said Brittany Clem, marketing and special projects coordinator for Harrisonburg Parks and Rec. “It will be a process that will focus on the most needed projects and future projects that will later be created as necessary.”
LSG Landscape Architecture will help Parks and Rec staff determine how far the Master Plan should look into the future.
“As plans age and advancements in playground features and environmental initiatives take place, we want to make sure we keep up to date with that and make the park more accessible to the community as well as being safe,” Clem said. “We are revisiting past plans and updating them so that we are relevant to today’s standards as well as making sure the park meets the needs of the community.”
Clem said the public forum is a large component of that process.
“Right now is a crucial time to receive feedback,” she said, adding that the department is working with focus groups including community members, environmental groups and athletic organizations to receive feedback.
Clem said the planning process for park upgrades is constantly taking place. The Parks and Rec staff attend workshops throughout the year to learn about potential improvements and have ideas for Purcell Park, according to Clem.
“Although some plans stay the same, we also have to — because of advancements — update plans and take advantage of new features available to us,” she said. “We need to utilize the green space as well as all the other space there is.”
The city purchased 1.5 acres of land for the park, which consisted mostly of green space and a baseball field.
Over the years, more land was purchased and more additions were constructed. Now, the park’s features include three softball/baseball fields, a multi-purpose field, open green space, four tennis courts, basketball courts, a Kid’s Castle playground, three picnic areas with shelters, tables and grills, restrooms, a pond and a 1.5-mile walking trail that connects to the Bluestone Trail. After Parks and Rec staff collect the community input from the forum, they will have a workshop from 3-8 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Kid’s Castle Playground to brainstorm ideas.
There will be a survey available at the Sept. 19 workshop for those to give ideas on changes to the park. The survey will also be available on the city’s Parks and Rec website in mid-October to November.
Staff will also be visiting all city elementary schools and some middle schools and after-school programs to collect feedback.
Any city student can download a drawing sheet from the Parks and Rec website and draw a favorite playground feature or something or suggestion for the Kid’s Castle Playground.
The drawing sheets must be submitted to either the Community Activities Center, Lucy Simms Center or at the Sept. 19 workshop.
“We think it’s very important to capture the kids’ feedback because they’re the large population that utilizes the park now and will into the future,” Clem said.
To download the kid’s drawing sheet, visit https://www.harrisonburgva.gov/purcellpark-master-plan.
Clem said the city will receive the final report of survey results from the firm in early November and the firm will present its findings mid-November.
The findings will help Parks and Rec staff best prioritize the changes and upgrades for the park — and make sure it’s all included in the Master Plan.
The changes to the park would have to begin in the next fiscal year, according to Clem, because the current fiscal year is the crucial planning time. Later in the planning stages, the department will look into applying for grants.
“Purcell Park and the Kid’s Castle is a much loved area around here and heavily utilized by the community so we rely heavily on them contacting us with any issues with the park or suggestions on how to make the park better,” Clem said. “There are so many great playground amenities out there and we want to make sure we utilize the amenities the community wants.”