Trail, pool, park improvements top city of Roanoke Parks and Recreation Department master plan

But not everyone is happy about the city's priorities

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The city of Roanoke Department of Parks and Recreation has a new 10-year master plan to improve parks, pools and recreational facilities, but not everyone is happy with the city's priorities.

Paved and accessible walking trails, modern aquatic facilities and improved recreation centers are the three top priorities in the new master plan.

Rhonda DeJesus runs a free day care for low-income families in Roanoke. She takes the kids to Washington Park Pool every Monday and says it's about time the pool got a face-lift.

"We'd like to see the baby pool opened over here. We'd like to see the concession stands up and running," DeJesus said. "Any upgrades would truly be appreciated."

On Monday, Parks and Recreation Department Director Michael Clark presented the new master plan to the planning commission.

He said the plan took a year to create and includes community input from two surveys. The first was an online survey open to anyone and the second was a statistical survey representing the city's demographics, including race, gender and income.

"The biggest thing for us is just taking care of what we have," Clark said.

Clark said the pools haven't been renovated in decades and all four recreation centers are outdated and cramped.

"We have a very popular after-school program that, because of space restrictions currently has a waitlist at all four locations," Clark said. "Being able to expand our rec centers allows us to expand that type of programming, which reaches people in the most need."

Liz Belcher is happy that trail improvements made the list.

"Greenways really rose to the top as one of the things citizens support," said Belcher, the Roanoke Valley Greenway coordinator.

William Sellari, a board member with the Roanoke Skate Park Initiative, said the plan doesn't include specific support for a new skate park at Wasena Park.

"Without any kind of, any even, recognition or inclusion by the city in part of the master plan, we're sort of in free space, asking people for money for a thing that may go to this thing or may not go to this thing," Sellari said.

Clark said that funding will always be tight, so groups who would like to see different improvements should look into private-public partnerships, corporate sponsorships and grants.

"We're talking $8 (million) to $10 million for just one rec center, so when you have four that you need to get done and you have two pools, that adds up quick," Clark said.

DeJesus said that the kids are worth it.

"This is our future, our generation. Get them off of the cellphones and get them back out to outdoors," DeJesus said. "It's much, much needed."

The next step is for the City council to adopt the new master plan in its comprehensive plan. There will a public hearing on Monday, July 15 before council votes.

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