Pandemic expected to boost parks plan redux

The coronavirus pandemic will keep people from meeting in-person to provide input on future improvements to Keizer parks, but renewed interest in open spaces might work to the city’s advantage. 

Cindy Mendoza, director of parks and recreation at MIG, a Portland-based firm consulting a revision of Keizer’s parks master plan, said public participation in the firm’s recent parks projects has skyrocketed because more people have been using public spaces for safe recreation.

“Our responses during the past year have gone above and beyond any we have seen before,” Mendoza said.

The City of Keizer kicked off a revision of the parks master plan with a presentation at the meeting of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Dec. 8. The effort will update a parks master plan created in 2008.

“We want to understand what’s in the parks right now, how it’s used and how it’s managed now and into the future,” said Mendoza.

Because of COVID-related precautions, the city is hoping to cull community input from an online survey. In addition, MIG will assemble at least three groups of stakeholders to provide input.

“One of those will be focused on youth sports, another on youth and family,” said Mendoza. “The primary thing we want from the members of the groups is some sort of relationship to the parks.”

Mendoza didn’t provide any direction for the third group.

Keizer parks already benefit from a strong identity within the community, Mendoza said, pointing to a unified look of park entry signs and elements such as historical markers.

“Priorities going forward will emerge from the questions asked on the survey,” she said.

One of the biggest changes to the new plan will be the inclusion of Keizer Little League (KLL) Park within the master plan. To date, KLL Park had been viewed as a separate entity under the management of a youth league also tasked with upkeep.

City leaders hope inclusion in the parks plan will lead to greater access of public funds for improvement projects at the park.

The study will look at how emerging trends, such a pickle ball, would fit into the city’s park and how Keizer can provide spaces for courts.

Because the project is primarily an update, the focus is on neighborhood parks, their needs, and what a recreation program might entail.

“Budget has always been a struggle, but our list of deferred maintenance is getting shorter,” said Matt Lawyer, a member of the parks committee. “The thing I don’t want to lose is the volunteer engagement. We haven’t lost it so far, but community buy-in is something important.”

Committee member Tanya Hamilton said she would be happy to facilitate discussions involving school families and their students.

“If there is anything else our committee can do, we are happy to support this project,” Hamilton said.