Murphy Park

Attendees sign in at an open house at American Legion Post 39’s hall at Murphy Park in Taylor Jan. 15 to get public input on the city’s Parks Master Plan. Surveys are planned to gather further input.

Taylor citizens can give more opinions on local parks soon in a different way.

On July 23, the Taylor City Council approved an outreach strategy for the Parks Master Plan. The strategy is focused from a digital approach, but offline options were proposed.

The city has been working on the Parks Master Plan with Halff Associates, a regional engineering and architectural consulting firm.

“To date, Halff has gathered input from city council members, city staff, parks board, citizens and key stakeholders through individual meetings and public input meetings,” said Larry Foos, Taylor parks and recreation director.

Open houses were one outlet for citizens to give their input on parks earlier this year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Halff’s game plan.

“Our preferred method is always meeting in person with people, but we’ve had to modify a lot of things and make sure we still get the best input we can for this community parks master plan,” said James Hemenes, director of landscape architecture at Halff Associates. “We want to make sure that the folks that really want to be heard are reached for sure.”

Halff is working on an online survey for the next round of feedback. A digital document will also be available that highlights the Parks Master Plan as it currently stands.

“This survey portion would be for three weeks at a minimum once it goes out,” said Hemenes. “We’ve got to just nail down the questions, and we can do that within the next couple of weeks for sure, get the final graphics that would be posted out in the parks, and then that would start the three weeks.”

One concern raised from this approach is the ability to get input from citizens who do not use or have internet capability.

“How do we reach those sectors,” said City Manager Brian LaBorde, “and I think it’s going to have to be a hard copy filled out and returned to us probably in designated areas.”

Halff has worked with the city communications department on that issue. Citizens could drop off physical surveys at locations yet to be finalized, but City Hall and the Taylor Farmers Market were among options discussed. Staff has also strategized on how to get the word out about the survey, such as ground signage displaying web links and quick response codes.

“We will have a story in the newsletter though that goes into the water bill with information about how people can participate in the survey, either by picking up a physical survey or by going online,” said Stacey Osbourne, city communications manager. “I think it’s a good plan. I think that it’s solid and I think that it will reach a lot of people and we will certainly be involved with the implementation of it.”

Mayor Pro Tem Dwayne Ariola wanted to establish a metric to gather an acceptable amount of feedback.

“If we don’t, then we won’t have mass input and we’ll make decisions based on an extreme minority,” said Ariola, “and I understand it’s hard to get people’s input.”

Hemenes said Halff would work with city staff to develop ways to encourage community participation.

“COVID-19 is posing challenges on any number of fronts, and certainly public engagement is one,” added Mayor Brandt Rydell. “I guess we just kind of do what we can, see how it goes and kind of recalibrate if we’re not seeing the kind of participation that we would hope for.”

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