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Houston adopts parks plan

Teens a priority for programming
The 95-page document is the first update to the district’s parks and recreation plan since 1980. (District of Houston image)

The District of Houston has adopted a new master plan for parks and recreation, the first update to this plan since 1980. Councillors adopted the 95-page document unanimously at their meeting on March 20.

“It’s a standalone visionary document that would eventually form a part of our official community plan,” said Gerald Pinchbeck, chief administrative officer for the district.

The plan commits the district to working with teens on offering programs of interest — something that emerged as lacking in surveys carried out as part of the plan.

“When asked if there are any age groups for which recreation programs are insufficient or lacking, the most respondents suggested that teens 13 to 18 have insufficient programs,” the report says.

That’s just one among dozens of recommended actions meant to serve as a guide for development in the district. High-priority, ongoing efforts include upgrading trails in high-use areas, replacing fitness equipment, and keeping the pool open later in the evening.

Quick fixes identified as costing less than $50,000 include developing a security system to allow 24-hour access to the fitness centre, replacing picnic tables in poor condition and getting some moveable play equipment for the leisure centre.

More ambitious and expensive goals costing upwards of $200,000 include improvements to local parks — the top item in this category is a planned upgrade to Jamie Baxter Park. The ball diamond at Jamie Baxter Park would also be decommissioned as part of the plan, having been identified as a hazard in the report.

“The ball diamond in Jamie Baxter Park is not booked due to its proximity to Mountainview Drive,” the report states. “Players who informally use this ball diamond regularly hit balls onto the road, which is a major driving hazard.”

Aspirational goals include the construction of a new park across the railroad from Steelhead Park, featuring a pond for fishing in the summer and skating in the winter.

The new roadmap for parks and recreation in Houston comes eight years after an update was recommended in the 2010 Official Community Plan. It’s the product of a community consultation that included surveys, focus groups and an open house, according to the document.

Surveys indicated that Houston residents were generally happy with outdoor parks and recreation, including natural parkland, tennis courts and mountain bike trails. They were less satisfied with services including public bathrooms, boat launches, winter park activities and park maintenance, according to the report

“Staff are reviewing the recommendations that council adopted in this report and looking at how we can incorporate that into our planning documents, such as our official community plan [and] our financial plan,” said Pinchbeck. “And at some point in time it will be reviewed with council as part of strategic planning.”