Vandalia parks plan shows residents would like to see more paved trails, dog park

Vandalia residents want to see the addition of a dog park and paved trails to the city’s parks, according to a community survey recently completed as part of a parks master plan.

Last year, Vandalia entered into a $100,000 agreement with PROS Consulting to help lead the master plan process and provide clear objectives to city officials and the parks advisory board.

The master plan can be viewed on the city’s website.

In early 2022, the city surveyed 381 residents.Information gathered from the survey, as well as through community engagement sessions, was used to formulate the master plan. Results of the survey and engagement sessions are available within the 253-page finalized document.

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The survey found that 86% of households used the Vandalia Rec Center over the previous 12-month period, with 69% using other public park and recreation facilities/amenities throughout the same period.

Of those surveyed, 67% indicated there are no barriers to the utilization of Vandalia’s park system, while 12% indicated there is a “lack of park amenities that interest me.”

Sixty-four percent of respondents indicated a need for paved multi-use trails, and 54% of households indicated a need for free or low-cost community events. The desire for fitness and wellness classes for adults followed closely, with 53% of respondents expressing a need for these types of offerings.

Analysis of the highest park/facility and amenities priorities showed a consistent desire across all age groups for paved multi-use trails and a dog park.

Households that include children of any age, as well as those with young/middle age adults — even those with no kids — also expressed the need for a community splash pad. Desire for an additional outdoor pool is also high on the priority list across most age groups, excluding those aged 55 and up with no children.

The city of Vandalia’s current parks inventory, which includes pocket parks, community parks, special use parks, and sports complex parks totals just under 454 acres. The parks master plan does not propose the acquisition of additional acreage, but does recommend the expansion of facilities/amenities available within those parks to meet the needs of residents, as well as the potential development of additional programming.

In alignment with resident input, the master plan includes several goals and recommendations for potential future improvements and developments within the parks system, along with funding avenues to consider. The plan also includes assessments for each park/facility, with overall ratings and recommended repairs and upgrades for each.

Nine “big move” goals are listed within the plan. These include reinvestment in the existing park and recreation system; redevelopment of Helke, Robinette, and Jeffers parks; renovation of Cassel Hills Pool; considering expansion of the Senior Center; development of a bike, pedestrian and trails master plan; construction of a dog park; construction of a splash pad; construction of an all-accessible playground; and more investment into operations and maintenance.

As part of its 2022 budget, the city appropriated $675,000 of its total $1.5 million in allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to go toward improvements of playgrounds and other equipment in Robinette Park, Helke Park, and at the Sports Complex.

“We want to see what comes out of this (master plan) process and what initial feedback we get before we make these (improvements),” City manager Dan Wendt said in March. “We’re committed to making those investments and this process is going to help us make the right investments.”

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