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Friday, Oct. 04, 2013

Olathe plans parks and recreation growth for next 10 years

Special to The Star

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Olathe wants to plan what its parks and recreation system will look like for the next 10 years, and they’re asking residents to help out.

The 10-year Master Plan will focus on everything from green space to sports facilities and will help the city determine what needs to be improved, what needs to be expanded, and what needs to be fixed.

Pros Consulting, an Indianapolis firm, this week held two community meetings and several focus groups for residents.

The focus groups discussed topics from restroom improvements to trail connectivity.

On Monday, the city launched an e-Town Hall meeting to attract input from residents on its website at www.olatheks.org/opentownhall. The online forum will close on Friday.

“The key to our Master Plan is that we hear our residents’ desires and we go on to actively make them happen,” said Nichole Asquith, the marketing manager for the Parks and Recreation department. “It’s important that people know this is their chance to have a say, because it really does make a difference.”

The city’s first Master Plan was created 15 years ago.

“Olathe was a much, much smaller town with just basic parks amenities,” said Michael Latka, park project coordinator for Olathe Parks and Recreation. “We created a Master Plan because we saw the rapid growth and we wanted to make sure our parks system grew with the city.”

Five years later, the plan was upgraded.

Using both documents, the city has established several new neighborhood parks, developed a massive trail system, upgraded every pool and added two community parks.

One of the best examples of how the city has acted on the plan is the massive community center currently under construction, said Asquith.

“This is our chance to shoot for the stars,” she said. “The community center is a direct result of the last Master Plan. The citizens wanted it for so long and we did what it took to get there.”

But dreams for the future won’t become a reality unless residents express what they want, she said.

The consultants agree. They are especially excited to see what comes out of the e-Town Hall meeting.

“It’s an innovative way to have that community input you might not get otherwise,” said Jeff Bransford of Pros Consulting. “People are busy and might not have time to make it to a meeting, so having this kind of discussion online is helpful.”

Asquith hopes Olathe residents take advantage of it because the city wants residents to be proud of its parks system.

“We’ve noticed that people want to see the parks system become better, which is exciting,” she said. “Their passion is what drives us every day.”

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