Consultants show survey results for Parks Master Plan


In working toward the development of an Encinitas Parks Master Plan, consultants from GreenPlay have gathered focus groups, met with stakeholders, surveyed more than 1,000 residents and worked with Design Concepts to do an inventory of the city’s parks, beaches and trails.

The findings, not surprisingly, showed that Encinitas residents value beaches and beach viewpoints, with 94 percent of respondents mentioning that as an important parks amenity offered by the city. Not far behind on that list are: preserving open space/natural area (88 percent), trails and pathways (87 percent) and community/neighborhood parks (84 percent).

Taking into account that most respondents felt their needs were being met in terms of beaches/beach viewpoints, the highest priority for the future, according to GreenPlay’s summary of the findings, is adding, expanding and improving the city’s open space/natural areas and trails/pathways, including but not limited to improving connectivity.

The compiled results were presented June 20 at a community workshop, after which around 40 interested citizens — including Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer — added their input. Those results, including the input from June 20, were then presented to the Encinitas Parks and Rec Commission for discussion the next night.

Preliminary recommendations based on all of that information are expected next month, and a meeting to unveil those to the public is scheduled for Monday, July 18. After that, the Parks and Rec and Planning Commissions will discuss the plan before making their recommendations to the Encinitas City Council. The council is expected to receive those recommendations late next fall or early next year.

“I would describe (the Parks Master Plan) as a cross between the city’s long-range vision for parks, trails and open space … and the strategic plan, which usually is an action-oriented plan, usually about two or three years in duration,” explained Encinitas interim director of Parks and Recreation Jim O’Grady. “This is more of a 10-year look ahead.”

At the June 20 meeting, consultant Art Thatcher from GreenPlay outlined the information gained from what he feels was a statistically valid survey. 499 mailed surveys were returned, a 14.5 percent response rate when 10 is typical, and another 582 open link surveys were filled out. Not only was it deemed to be a strong sample size, but a look at the demographics found it to be solidly representative of all the different areas and types of people in Encinitas.

So, in addition to working toward adding and expanding the city’s open spaces and trails, what do the people of Encinitas want from their parks and recreation plan?

Community events was identified as the most important parks and rec program, but the city seems to be filling that need, according to the highest percentage of respondents. Meanwhile, working on improving the condition/maintenance of existing parks and recreation facilities is something residents would like to focus more on.

Graphs comparing the relative importance of parks and rec programs and facilities to those needs actually being met, singled out an aquatic facility and programs as an area to look at as well.

Another part of the presentation was an inventory summary of Encinitas’ 39 outdoor sites, four indoor facilities and more than 30 miles of trails. This was done by Design Concepts, and was presented by Dave Peterson, the firm’s director of specialized planning.

Peterson, who visited all of those sites personally, outlined needs for more shade at parks, connectivity of trails and storage at sports fields, as well as what he saw as missed opportunities for public art and measured loops to add to the communities focus on health.

However, despite those possible areas of improvement, Peterson also showed great strengths in the existing city park system, including the fact that 95 percent of Encinitas residents have walkable access to some type of recreation. He added that the number could be even higher with a few small improvements, such as creating access through existing pedestrian barriers.

It is also worth adding, as several residents at the June 20 meeting noted, that some of the more rural areas of Olivenhain may have all the recreation they need on their own larger properties.

In a summary at the end of the presentation, Thatcher highlighted some other recurring themes for the city’s plan to address. These included continuing to look at ways to increase programming opportunities — such as events, outdoor recreation, nature/environmental and fitness/wellness — as well as possible increases in opportunities for active recreation with courts and athletic fields. Another recommendation was to increase the marking, branding and awareness of new and existing programs and facilities within the parks master plan.