GAITHERSBURG – The Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan Element for the City of Gaithersburg was fully adopted by the mayor and city council on Aug. 5.
The document, which will guide future development of the Parks, Recreation and Culture department, is the result of years of work by city officials, residents and department staffers.
The portion dedicated to planning for the future of parks and recreation for the city contributes to the larger master plan for the entire city. The comprehensive plan, updated every 10 years, includes elements such as Land Use; Transportation; Environment and Sustainability; Water Resources; Municipal Growth; Historic Preservation; and Parks, Recreation and Culture.
Michele Potter, who serves as the director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, said that putting together the elements for her department took a total of three years.
“It was a long process; we had focus groups, we invited members of the Planning Commission, we invited members of various committees, we had surveys,” she said. “We went to the mayor and council three times, to hear the introduction, then we had a public hearing, and then we had the final adoption.”
Potter said that the Parks, Recreation and Culture element was sent out to all local jurisdictions that might have input into these plans. The City of Rockville, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), Maryland Recreation and Parks Association and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, among other organizations, all received the master plan.
“Anyone that had any input in our industry of parks and recreation (received the master plan), so that we could get feedback throughout our process, and continually updated it before we went to the Planning Commission and the mayor and council,” Potter said.
She explained that the work that goes into creating a master plan like this one is handled by an outside consultant. These consultants often charge up to $100,000 and offer a “cookie-cutter master plan” because they often work from templates.
“We did this on our own; we were able to save that much money, and then we have our unique master plan that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Potter said.
According to the City of Gaithersburg, the Parks, Recreation and Culture Element of the master plan includes recommendations for future development and parks infrastructure but also for programs that meet the leisure, fitness and cultural desires of city residents.
“Each of the element’s three chapters includes goals, objectives and actions as well as a comprehensive inventory and assessment of existing parks and facilities,” the city wrote in their announcement of the master plan. “Also included in the report are such things as guidance for city park pond maintenance, a summary of stormwater management facilities for parks and facilities, and a playground replacement schedule.”
Potter said that the nearly 1,000-page document will be submitted for a technical writing award with the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.
She also stated that the lengthy amount of time it took to put together the parks master plan in part resulted from the fact that the department had part-time staffers dedicated to the project. Full-time parks department staffers had their workload and daily tasks to deal with, so part-time employees helped with finishing up the master plan.
Turnover with part-time employees is normal, Potter said. The project began with one part-time staffer, which transferred to the next person once the previous employee moved to another job during the master plan process.
The master plan outlines many trends and improvements for the city, she explained.
“We’re constantly looking at trends for programming, and a couple of things that are in our capital budget are public art, a synthetic turf field at Robertson Park and looking at repurposing a field among other things,” she said. “Just making sure that we’re constantly being aware of what trends are and what the needs of our residents are and then trying to fulfill those needs.”
Potter said the addition of a turf field excited her the most – considering the dire condition the current field is in – plus the project is already budgeted with grant funding.
The Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan is available to the public to read online and give feedback as well.