Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Future of play space: Planning effort underway to chart course for Moses Lake Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Department

| May 25, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — About 45 people attended a virtual public forum Thursday by the Moses Lake Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Department to gain input for its in-the-works comprehensive master plan.

According to prior meetings, as well as attendee input, the biggest strength of Moses Lake’s parks, trails, recreational facilities and activities is their variety.

Other assets mentioned were the number of parks, level of maintenance, the water park, “amazing” staff, the museum, the lake, diverse programming within the activity brochure and the ballfields.

Limited winter activities was the biggest noted weakness, as well as a shortage of sports fields. Other weaknesses included sports fields needing maintenance or updates, difficult signup process for activities, lake health, non-optimal lake use, insufficient staffing and general poor communication to the public.

On a 1-5 scale, the majority of attendees wrote Moses Lake’s parks are good (3), trails are fair (2), recreational facilities, such as the water park and softball fields, are very good (4) and recreational facilities are very good (4).

The goal of the updated plan – with a planned adoption in January 2022 – is to guide the department in future efforts and to make sure services delivered provide safe recreational facilities and programs focusing on health, pleasure and educational use for all visitors and all community members, said Jeff Milkes, a project consultant for GreenPlay LLC, the consulting company hired by the city to carry out the new plan.

“We are in the process of creating a long-term strategic plan that will act as a blueprint or a roadmap for the department for the next five to 10 years and beyond,” Milkes said.

In the past week, GreenPlay held six stakeholder interviews with nine individuals, three focus groups with 25 participants each and one focus group with seven city staff members, he said.

They’re just getting started, he said.

Most of Thursday’s forum attendees were Moses Lake residents of more than ten years, each with the ability to answer poll questions throughout the presentation or provide open comments in a chat box.

A more statistically accurate survey will follow, Milkes said, with around 40 questions that go more in depth for each particular facility.

Prior meetings noted the most underserved areas in the city are the Longview Tracks area off Longview Street Northeast, he said, as well as unspecified lower income and unincorporated areas.

In terms of market segments, stakeholders felt teenagers were the most underserved, following people with physical or developmental disabilities, seniors, men, youth, theater and arts patrons, male volleyball players, bocce ball players, boaters, school age children and 20-somethings, Milkes said.

When asked what new amenities were needed in Moses Lake, public respondents overwhelmingly said items providing shade, such as structures and trees.

“Unfortunately, trees grow at their own pace,” Milkes said, “so if we plant trees in new parks it may take a while.”

In addition, stakeholders requested new sports fields, trails, boat launches, modern playground equipment, piers and docks, benches and splash pads at Blue Heron Park and McCosh Park.

In terms of activities, the overarching response was for special events bringing people together, such as concerts and movies. Public arts programs, pickleball, food truck rodeos, indoor programs, kayak and paddle board activities and senior programs followed suit.

The three main organizations people requested the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Department should work with were the school district, the Downtown Moses Lake Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of The Columbia Basin. They also listed Youth Outdoors Unlimited, the Rotary Club of Moses Lake, the Planning Commission, various subcommittees, local gyms, local businesses, the city council and others.

The new master plan’s priorities should include improved safety and security, promoting the quality of life to attract people and businesses, taking care of what exists before creating new, updated park equipment, improving water access, addressing the homeless issue with blue lights and restrooms and greater marketing for the museum and recreational programming, according to stakeholders.

In coming weeks, GreenPlay will send out an in-depth survey by mail to get a more accurate picture of what the Moses Lake community is wanting, Milkes said. Following, they will put out an open link to an online survey, as well.

Next comes analysis. Consultants will study demographics and parks trends, the quality of assets, recreation programs, operations, partnerships and funding sources in trailing months.

Findings from this analysis will be presented to the public in the fall, Milkes said. Following the findings presentation, GreenPlay will draft the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services comprehensive master plan recommendation with cost estimates, with final adoption set for January 2022.


Emily Thornton/Columbia Basin Herald

A man readies his boat at a dock Friday afternoon at Cascade Park on Valley Road Northeast.