MORRISVILLE — Construction crews are turning dirt off of Church Street, a sign of progress for a future 25-acre park that will feature a playground, tennis courts and a regulation-size cricket playing field.
A few miles away at the Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center, people swim laps, take an aerobics class, lift weights or play racquetball.
The park and the fitness center were part of Morrisville’s 2011 Master Parks and Recreation Plan. Now the town is rethinking its recreation needs.
Over the next year, town staff, residents and users of town amenities will get a chance to weigh in on what works and what needs improvement when it comes to Morrisville’s parks, greenways and other recreation sites.
After hearing feedback, town leaders want to update the plan next year.
Some big changes could be in store. The Morrisville Town Council has discussed the idea of building a new fitness and swim center in a future downtown area. The town has outgrown the current aquatics facility.
Meanwhile, Morrisville is trying to earn national accreditation for its parks department through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies for the first time.
The process is similar to what police and fire departments undergo to earn accreditation. Policies, procedures, staffing and equipment are evaluated based on national standards.
“One of the best things, from our standpoint, is really being able to learn more about our operating standards,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Allen. “We think we do a great job, but (we’re) keeping in mind that there are a lot of opportunities to learn. Maybe there’s things we can be doing differently or better.”
There are 117 accredited parks and recreation agencies in the United States, according to CAPRA’s website.
“It’s an assurance that we are doing things according to the best practices in the industry,” Allen said, adding that the department could earn accreditation this fall.
Online feedback is key
Public input is part of the accreditation process and the master-plan update.
For the first time, Morrisville will do an online survey to get input. Previously, the town mailed out questionnaires and had copies available at community centers.
Dr. Ananda Mitra, a communications professor at Wake Forest University, is working as a consultant to help the town develop the survey. Over the next few months, Mitra and town staff will meet with a focus group to come up with questions that focus on needs, facility usage, opinions and town demographics.
Once the survey is ready, residents and park users will get a letter or postcard in the mail with the website for the online survey.
“What we are trying to avoid (is) printing hundreds of pages,” Mitra told the Town Council earlier this month. “It takes away printing and data-entry costs and can be done quickly.”
Apex successfully used a comprehensive online survey for its parks and recreation master-plan update last year, drawing a higher-than-average response.
In Morrisville, surveys usually generate a participation rate of about 10 to 15 percent. The town wants to get that number to about 20 percent.
“We’re hoping this will reach a wider base,” said Matt Leaver, recreation superintendent. “If this is successful, it may be something that can be applied to other data (projects).”
More greenways, trails
The last recreation survey in Morrisville received 332 responses, and 85 percent were from residents.
Respondents said they preferred to walk and hike, and the most desired amenities were greenways and trails. They also said they wanted the town to add new services like a dog park and amphitheater.
Morrisville has 10 greenways identified in its master plan.
The Crabtree/Hatcher Creek greenways would provide an east-west corridor connecting Raleigh to Morrisville and on to Cary and the American Tobacco Trail.
The Indian Creek, Crabtree Crossing and Shiloh greenways, along with the Davis Drive and Chapel Hill Road multi-use paths, would provide north-south routes to Research Triangle Park.
Some of the projects, such as the Shiloh greenway, are already moving forward. Others have not yet been funded.
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