MKC Architects Teismann Donaldson

Matthew Teismann, left, and Jamie Donaldson of MKC Architects present a preliminary parks master plan to Mount Vernon City Council on Nov. 22, 2021.

MOUNT VERNON — After months of gathering input from the community, MKC Architects presented a preliminary parks master plan at Monday's city council meeting.

Council members authorized the study in March, but the discussion began in the fall of 2020. The initial plan was to focus on Memorial Park and Riverside Park.

“As we went through the process, it became evident there are other parks, and they should play a bigger role in the master plan as well,” Matthew Teismann, president and chief financial officer of MKC Architects, said. “So we started to incorporate them on a smaller scale.”

Teismann said the strategy is to think of the parks holistically as a system. Each park has its own identity, functions, and uses; the goal is to build upon those features for a long-term vision.

He said a master plan creates a plan for future development and is a long-term way of thinking about what is the ideal situation for the parks. It is intended to help guide decisions in the short-term so that when funds are available, the city will know where to put the money.

MKC gathered information internally from the city as well as from the community via public meetings, surveys, smaller focus groups, and high school students.

“We partnered that feedback with what we call inventory analysis: what you have now, what type of conditions are in what you have now, and how much of them do you have," Teismann said. "We did that for each of the parks, and that helped develop a strategy moving forward.”

Jaime Donaldson, MKC interior designer, noted that the city already has family parks, it is more a matter of making them fit a wider group of people or having more amenities to draw people in and make the parks better utilized.

The plan lists “pain points” for each park. Pain points are problems that make it inconvenient or difficult to access a service.

In the area of ADA accessibility, the plan echoes some of the points mentioned by Laura Sykes, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio, during her recent visit. ADA pain points include narrow, missing, or cracked sidewalks, lack of signage, and inability to access shelters and pavilions.

Park pain points also share similarities with the county's active transportation plan, noting the need for better crosswalk signage, adding crosswalks, and adding connection paths between parks, neighborhoods, and trail systems.

Suggestions to reduce or eliminate those pain points, as well as enhance park amenities and encourage community engagement, range from straightforward to long-term, more expensive projects. Suggested short-term projects include:

•Resurfacing basketball courts

•Adding signage

•Providing benches, bleachers, or picnic tables for seating

•Painting existing shelter houses

•Installing bike racks

•Adding trash enclosures

•Creating a city parks map

Suggested long-term projects include:

•Replacing existing playground equipment (with the exception of Harmony Park)

•Adding shelter houses

•Adding lighting

•Replacing the fountain in Riverside Park with a splash pad

•Reorienting ball fields

•Adding concession stands and restrooms

In addition to physical enhancements, the plan recommends color consistency. For example, restroom signage will be the same throughout all city parks. Concession stands will be another color, maintenance buildings another color, and so on.

“Having that consistency among the parks, but also making sure that each park's character comes through,” Donaldson said.

Teismann emphasized that the master plan is a vision and strategy meant to pair with the city's effort, but it is also evolving.

“We don't expect you build it exactly as everything is drawn there, but again, it helps you make short-term decisions while keeping a long-term vision in place,” he said.

Council member Amber Keener, chair of the Parks and Lands Committee, and Safety-service Director Richard Dzik also emphasized that the parks master plan is a preliminary report and not a final one.

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