Residents Weigh In On Future Amenities
By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 9/7/19
HARRISONBURG — More than 30 people gathered at the Lucy Simms Center Thursday night for an information session and public input on potential redesigns and upgrades to Purcell Park.
Employees were present at the forum from the consultant firm LSG Landscape Architecture and from Greenplay, which acts as a management tool for agencies by organizing consultant teams that are responsive and understand the needs of their communities to provide services for park, recreation and open space, according to its website.
Tom Diehl, a project consultant from Greenplay, presented a PowerPoint that included input from past information gatherings.
Through a number of focus groups, which include meetings with city staff, stakeholders and community focus groups, there have been more than 100 participants who have submitted answers to a survey.
Of the more than 100 participants, 46% said they go to Purcell Park monthly and 29 percent go occasionally. Around 12% don’t go at all.
At the Thursday meeting, Diehl asked the audience how many times they go to Purcell Park. Around 11 people said they go to the park daily and 10 people said they go weekly. Not all attendees participated in the question.
Currently, the park’s features include three softball/baseball fields, a multipurpose 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.
The 100 participants said that some of the weaknesses of the park included flooding, noise from Interstate 81, ADA accessibility, lack of signs to find the park and lack of informal sport play.
Around 18 people at the meeting said they have been affected by flooding.
“Some students came to a meeting and said they’d like to have an area for informal sports like soccer,” Diehl said. “They want some smaller places for that.”
The Thursday audience gave input on what strengths and weaknesses need to be addressed at Purcell Park.
One person said they like that there are multiple access points to the park, another said they feel safe. Some people said they like that there’s good parking and the park is clean.
“We want to make sure we don’t eliminate those strengths, so that’s why we are asking that question,” Diehl told the audience.
Some weaknesses that were addressed at the meeting were that there is no good main entrance, no shelter for bad weather and no technology to host sporting tournaments.
The idea of having a police emergency alert post and more security was discussed.
A kid who attended the event said she would like to see more swings. A parent said she would like to have a bathroom close to the Kid’s Castle Playground and an enclosed area with a main entrance so adults can keep an eye on their kids. A number of people said they would like to see different amenities for kids, tweens and teenagers as well as exercise equipment for both adults and kids.
Additional activities listed by the audience were swimming, foursquare, ping pong, a park run for those who want to run a 5k and badminton, among other things. Diehl said he will be talking with the city about what reasonable activities and facilities will work in the park before putting out a survey for the public.
One hot topic at the Thursday meeting was whether or not WiFi should be available at the park. The three kids who attended the meeting said no because that’s where you go to run around and exercise. One person said they like doing their schoolwork in the park so it would be nice to have WiFi. Diehl said with the second Harrisonburg High School coming, there will be a demographic study and will work on finding out if the high school would use the Purcell Park facilities.
“That could change the way things are constructed within the park,” Diehl said. Harrisonburg’s Parks and Rec staff will hold a workshop with Greenplay and LSG Landscape Architecture from 3 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Kid’s Castle Playground to brainstorm ideas.
A survey will also be available at the workshop.
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. To download the kids drawing sheet, visit https://www.harrisonburgva.gov/purcell-park-master-plan.
In four to six weeks, an invitation survey will be sent to random homes throughout the city. Around 3,500 will be sent. “They are randomly selected to make our study statistically accurate,” Diehl said. An open link survey will also become available in mid-October to November for anyone, even those who don’t live in the city, to participate in. It will be available on the city’s Parks and Rec website. Once the data has been received, LSG Landscape Architecture and Greenplay will come back and give its findings presentation.
Brittany Clem, marketing and special projects coordinator for Harrisonburg Parks and Rec, 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.
Once a Master Plan is provided to the city, it will be in the city’s hands to hire a design firm to execute the plans.