The Forks Township Five-Year Recreation Plan is on the Board of Supervisor’s Agenda tonight, Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 P.M. Discussions of the Parks & Recreation Five Year Plan have been going on since at least 2006 when the Recreation Board was charged with the responsibility of future planning.
After several drafts and discussions with the Board over the years, the Five Year Plan has never been formally approved or even adopted, and with good reason. The Recreation Board approached planning in the simplest of terms by creating a “wish list” of capital recreation projects by year for five years. The wish list approach never truly addressed the issues facing the real needs of Forks Township’s growing population and dwindling community park space to serve all recreational activities; nor were cost-benefit analyses projected.
While the Five Year Plans were a work in progress, they failed to include services and programs to serve all the diverse needs of Forks residents. Rather, they primarily addressed the concerns of youth sports. Furthermore, the Recreation Board failed to review the costs and location for any of the wish list capital projects.
In 2011 the Township adopted a streamlined Parks and Recreation Ordinance, replacing an outdated, inadequate Ordinance drafted when Forks had less than 5,000 residents in 1960. The new Ordinance charged the Recreation Board with creating “leisure, educational and recreational opportunities for personal growth and enhancement. To achieve this, the Board shall develop diverse services and programs that promote citizen involvement and a strong sense of community. Such services and programs shall strive to increase the social, cultural, and physical well-being of Forks residents and visitors.”
The adoption of the new Ordinance resulted in the Township hiring professional staff to direct Parks and Recreation and manage the Community Center. The professional staff and the Recreation Board are now guided by the Ordinance’s Mission Statement and a set of policies to act as a guide toward developing a Five Year Plan that serves all the people.
All residents have a stake in the success of a well conceived, fiscally responsible Five Year Parks and Recreation Plan. For this reason we wonder why the Township Planning Commission was not included as part of the original process as it should have been? Supervisors Chuss and Billings correctly urged that the Planners be involved in reviewing the current planning document, even at this late hour. We should be anxious to know what the Planners have to say.
Greater care in deliberating over the Five Year Plan with input by the Planning omission could provide a recreation document that will lead Supervisors forward in serving the whole Community First.