Parks’ progress will be put on shoulders of new committee

By Per Peterson

The City of Tracy is proud of its numerous parks to the point where it uses them as a selling point to attract people to town, so it only makes sense it wants to take care of them as much as possible.

That said, the city council recently directed City Administrator Erik Hansen to work on forming a plan to better support the City’s parks. On Monday, Hansen offered up three options to satisfy the council’s desires.

The first option would be a full, citizen advisory committee on the same level as the planning commission. The group would need to be established by ordinance and include bylaws, and would also allow the most room for citizen participation.

“The question is, ‘What would they do?’” Hansen said. “That’s a discussion we would have to have. Ultimately, this is kind of the formal way to do it.”

Option No. 2 would fold in the idea of city-wide beautification with a parks committee. This would focus on beautification of parks and other areas of the city, and would include more than just facilities.

“It would be more like, ‘How do we maintain things, how do we keep things clean?’” said Hansen.

The third option would be to develop a sub-committee of the Planning Commission, in which members of the public would be appointed to serve under the direction of the Commission. The focus would be on facilities for parks.

“This might be a way to kind of put your toe in the water,” Hansen said. “This would be more along the lines of something focused on facilities, as opposed to just beautification. We could ask the Planning Commission to establish a sub-committee that would focus on facilities in the parks.”

The main question that needs to be answered by the council, Hansen said, is what would be the main objective of any group?

“What’s the purpose, what do we want to accomplish?” he said.

Council member Seth Schmidt said a parks board could benefit the City by getting citizens involved in planning for its parks and taking more ownership of the parks. He said it’s important to get citizen feedback since those are the people who frequent the park.

“Would it be beneficial to have a dog run somewhere? What do we think of some of our facilities?” Schmidt said. “Should we get that hedge trimmed, or that old boxelder tree cut down? Do we need to get more trees planted in this park? Or, ‘Gee, those old tennis courts aren’t serving any useful purpose, why don’t we install two sand volleyball courts?’ I think there’s just a lot of things a citizen board could get involved in.”

Schmidt said the Planning Commission already has enough on its plate, so the City should avoid going that route. He said a new parks committee could include up to five people, but there is no limit on the number of people who can join the group. Schmidt said it’s important to gather a group of volunteers if for no other reason than to help maintain the City’s parks.

Council members agreed that the application process should be opened up to all Tracy residents, as it has with other groups and committees. There was no specification on whether or not a person has to live within city limits.

“We are going to need a group of people that will follow through on this,” council member Dave Tiegs said. “For now, let’s just get some ideas and go from there.”

The City used to have a Parks Department, but it eventually got blended in with Public Works, which is run by Director Shane Daniels.

There is now a separate line item in the City’s budget that pertains just to parks.

“It’s really (about) how many resources we want to put into it,” Hansen said. “I think it’s important that with every committee we have that we have a designated staff person to kind of be the liaison to that board. It probably would be Shane to start with.”