Draft Of Master Plan For Local Recreation Details Needs Within County
By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The Kosciusko County Parks and Recreation Board’s draft of a 70-page master plan for parks, trails and recreation over the next five years discusses needs that local leaders and residents have identified within the community.
Multiple needs were specifically grouped into the following categories: parks/recreation amenities, trail/blueway connections, promotion/marketing and staffing/maintenance.
Some of the listed needs for the county’s park and recreation areas include ADA-accessible playgrounds, a multipurpose indoor sports facility and the possibility of utilizing the former Madison Elementary School building in Warsaw as a recreational facility.
With trails and blueway connections, the county has determined a significant need for connecting the county’s trails but noted a high cost in doing so; the plan highlights soil conditions and wetlands as barriers in making this happen. The concepts of establishing safe bicycle and pedestrian connectivity across US 30, and more bike rental sites/accessibility throughout the county were also identified as needs.
The plan also focuses on the need for overall promotion of the county’s parks and recreation areas, noting a lack of a centralized map showcasing the county’s current resources. A lack of community involvement and unified vision for parks and recreation were also identified as current issues.
In regards to staffing for recreational upkeep, the plan notes limited staffing capacities at the county level, along with no annual budget for parks. The plan discusses the possibility of creating a volunteer organization for parks and finding ways to fund projects without relying on donations. The parks board would also need support from the county’s commissioners and council to create a Kosciusko County Parks Department.
The plan further discusses ideas for trail connections, canoe/kayak launches, and the establishment of new parks in the southern region of Kosciusko County. Several of the proposed trail connections would connect Warsaw to many of the county’s small towns, from Nappanee to Sidney. Four canoe/kayak launches along the Tippecanoe River are also listed as possibilities, as well as two new parks within southern Kosciusko County, specifically areas south of Burket and Sidney.
In creating their plan, the county board, alongside Michiana Area Council of Governments and the county’s steering committee, used metrics from the National Recreation and Park Association Acreage and Park Level of Service Metrics system to identify needs within establishing a county parks system.
NRPA’s metrics system measures the total acreage of recreational lands per 1,000 residents and the number of parks per 2,277 residents. The metrics state a typical park board has about 9.9 acres of land for outdoor recreational use per 1,000 residents.
By further analyzing Kosciusko County’s projected population for 2030, which is about 82,000 residents, there would need to be a total of 818 acres of outdoor recreational areas and 36 parks within the county. There are about 182 acres of parks and 4,907 acres of nature preserves with hiking trails or open spaces. Currently, the amount of recreational areas and parks within the county exceeds NRPA’s metrics for what should be available recreationally compared to the county’s population.
The draft of the county parks board’s master plan is available online. Three public open houses for community members to share their input on the plan will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the following locations and dates: Tuesday, March 14, at the North Webster Community Center; Thursday, March 16, at the Bell Memorial Public Library, Mentone; and Tuesday, March 28, at the Warsaw Community Public Library.
A survey for community members to help determine top priorities the board should begin implementing in the next five years is also available online.