The City of Umatilla Parks and Recreation Committee met with the Planning Commission Thursday night to go over possible designations for the city’s parks and pathways.

City Planner Bill Searles said the effort is the first step to develop a comprehensive plan for the area’s parks and pathways.

“The last time there was any real park planning done was back when we first adopted the first comprehensive plan in 1978,” he said. “This is the first major effort to do a comprehensive plan for all of the parks.”

Searles said the goal of the meeting was to define and develop park sub-districts to ensure the recreational needs of residents are being met. He said the park sub-districts are established primarily on barriers that impede or prevent easy access from one sub-district to another, such as highways, river or physical geography.

Searles said the committee also worked to define classifications for each of the city parks based on type and size of the parks. Examples of the classifications include miniparks, neighborhood parks, school parks, community parks, etc.

He said determining which park fits into which classification will help to define the types of recreation activities and/or facilities required to meet the recreation needs of the residents within the area. He said the classifications will also help to determine the public demand for each park space.

Searles said the classification process is a little bit more lengthy of a process than one would assume.

“That is something that really does take some time,” he said. “While it does sound like a fairly easy process, it is just not that cut and dry.”

Searles said he eventually wants to get to the point where city officials can seek input from the public about whether residents think the existing parks are meeting their needs or whether they feel there needs to be additional parks. He said, as an example, the public may want to additional picnic tables and barbecues added to some of the city parks.

Searles said he has been working on the comprehensive plan for the parks system for a couple of months now.

“As far as trying to get the feedback from the Planning Commission, I wanted to see if they felt comfortable of where we are headed,” he said.

Searles said with the comprehensive parks plan, officials are also hoping to develop some recreational programs.

“That is the other side of the coin and one we don’t have a whole lot of experience with, but it is part of the learning experience for providing more than just the physical parks and playgrounds,” he said. Searles said establishing a comprehensive parks plan will also help should the city pursue a Parks and Recreation District.

“If the city does pursue it, rather than go back to develop a whole new plan for the Parks and Recreation District, we can take a look at this and tweak this here and there,” he said. “We are hoping to make it (the plan) so that it could work at either level. We are trying to layout the framework right now.”

Searles said officials will continue the parks planning discussion at the next planning meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at City Hall.

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