Proposed master plan would expand, upgrade facilities
Two years ago, the Twisp Town Council asked its Parks and Recreation Commission — a five-member volunteer advisory group — to come up with an updated comprehensive plan for an integrated recreation experience within the town and connections beyond.
The group took that charge seriously.
The commission’s draft plan, the culmination of two years of work that was presented to the council in late October, is not only ambitious, detailed and expansive, it could be called downright assertive.
The commission proposed not only parks and recreation upgrades throughout the town, but also is pushing hard for more community involvement and input as the facilities are improved or expanded. The commission’s clear implication is that such feedback has been lacking in the past, and should be part of any action in the future.
The 2014 plan the commission was asked to update was barely a blueprint, commission members noted in an introductory letter to the mayor and council that accompanied the draft document in October.
“The 2014 plan … focused largely on trail development, most of which has yet to be realized. We revisited the objectives of that plan and also broadened the scope of our revision to include not only trails and paths but also town parks and related facilities, open space, and river access — all of which are, or should be, parks and recreation priorities,” the commission said in its letter to the council.
The commission raised a few other issues in its letter to the council:
• Few of the goals and priorities of the group’s draft plan are included in the town’s long-term Capital Facilities Plan, which defines major capital improvement goals, target dates and possible funding sources for a variety of projects. “Neither does it [the Capital Facilities Plan] reflect any of the trails objectives of the 2014 plan,” the letter said. “Now that you have our updated Draft Plan in hand, we would hope you could revisit the Capital Facilities Plan with its perspective in mind and better align the two.”
• Twisp Park improvements should get more attention from the town. “The 2021 Draft Parks and Recreation Plan includes the recommendation of a Master Plan for Twisp Park, which surely is one of the most beautiful small town parks anywhere and deserves better than piecemeal development,” the commission’s letter said. “While improvements to paving and sidewalks and the extension of the park have been much appreciated, we would like to see future developments more comprehensively envisioned. Our commission has discussed a number of possible improvements and changes in the park, including: Wagner Pool renovation or relocation; band shell replacement; basketball court repaving; skate park and/or pump track construction; bank erosion abatement along the riverside trail; restroom construction; and playground upgrades that include more innovative structures that are appealing to older children. A Master Plan could sort through, coordinate, and prioritize these possibilities.”
The commission noted that replacing the existing band shell, which is infrequently used, would be costly, and pointed out that a new band shell at TwispWorks might better accommodate appropriate events instead.
• Regarding the second phase of the town’s sports complex near the airport, “Our commission would like to better understand what demand or needs analyses were used to identify this project for future build-out as a priority, given its expense, limited seasonal use, and the fact that the town is not yet able to assess the use/demand of the Phase 1 fields,” the commission’s letter said. “Also, there may be other recreational uses of this property which should be at least considered in the project design. This project needs to be better vetted by the public (including the Parks and Recreation Commission?) to establish the best use of this important public property that holds so much potential.”
• Finally, the commission noted that “the Town has dedicated no capital expense to planning for a new Twisp Pool in the next six years [to replace the existing Wagner Memorial Pool], despite the fact that there is well-established demand and use and a clearly identified need for this facility to be replaced. By not including it in the Capital Facilities Plan on some level, it sends a message that the pool is not a priority. “
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said at the council’s Oct. 26 meeting, where the commission’s draft was first presented, that it is “not prudent” to put town funds into upgrading or replacing the existing pool because of plans for the new one that are being developed by the local nonprofit Friends of the Pool. That is why it is not included in the town’s Capital Facilities Plan, she said.
Ing-Moody noted that the new sports complex was developed in partnership with the Methow Valley School District, which contributed funds to its construction, and said plans for the complex have been “vetted” thoroughly throughout the process.
Council member Hannah Cordes, who acts as council liaison with the Parks and Recreation Commission, said that group “wants to think broader in terms of goals and priorities,” which is why the proposed plan offers “more details and more vision.”
More to be done
Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission are Sarah Schrock, Nick Hershenow, Sandy Liman, Steve Kern and Josh Gewirtz. (Schrock is also president of Friends of the Pool, and is married to Town Council member Hans Smith.)
Hershenow, representing the commission, took part in the council’s Nov. 9 meeting, where the proposed plan came up for review again. He said the commission needed two years for its work because there was so much to do.
“It was a trails plan only,” Hershenow said of the 2014 plan that was to be revised. “We needed to do more to update … it wasn’t comprehensive and it didn’t have a lot to do with parks.”
So the group added plans for parks and “other ideas” to enhance the town’s offerings — particularly, a network of trails with an emphasis on connectivity. “Some are pretty aspirational,” Hershenow said of the commission’s recommendations, and the commission doesn’t necessarily expect to see all of them happen.
The overarching emphasis on trails, Hershenow said, is making them compatible with each other —recreation corridors that lead to other corridors for a complete, navigable system that offers “clear, safe pedestrian connections.”
Another emphasis, Hershenow said, is improved access to the Twisp and Methow Rivers where appropriate. The commission looked at how parks can be improve specific neighborhoods, Hershenow said. “What other amenities might go where” is part of the consideration, he said.
The town’s smaller parks need more attention, Hershenow added. The Maves Memorial Park on Glover Street, a small open space now featuring only a bench and garbage can, “could be a sweet spot with just a little bit of help,” he said.
Council member Mark Easton said he was “impressed with the scope” of the draft plan, which includes many possibilities that “are dear to me and I’d like to see happen.”
Easton suggested that a community garden could also be added to the proposal. “We would love to talk about that,” Hershenow responded.
Hershenow noted that although the plan contains references to possible trail routes that might require easements, property owners who might be affected have not been directly contacted to determine their interest. The draft plan will be revised to edit out references to specific private properties whose owners have not been contacted.
Hershenow said that commission is now developing a community survey that will be distributed to collect feedback on the proposal’s ideas before it is finalized for approval by the Town Council.
“We need better community outreach to vet the plan and gain feedback. Our commission is designing a survey that the Town could use to solicit feedback and guide priorities,” the commission said in its letter to the council. “Reaching the target audience for this survey and getting better public involvement is a challenge. We are asking the town to extend some outreach resources to gain that input in a valuable manner so that the final plan is a reflection both of our work and the needs and desires of the people we aim to serve.”
Ing-Moody said the commission can also offer a public hearing on the proposal is it would like to. A copy of the draft plan could be posted online for review as well, she said.
Ing-Moody said that because of time for public review and comment, and potential revisions to the draft plan, it’s not likely the document will be get final approval before next year.