Vandalia wants resident input on major parks and recreation plan

City Manager Dan Wendt said $675,000 of Vandalia's ARPA funds will go toward improvements of playgrounds and other equipment in Robinette Park, Helke Park, and at the Sports Complex.

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City Manager Dan Wendt said $675,000 of Vandalia's ARPA funds will go toward improvements of playgrounds and other equipment in Robinette Park, Helke Park, and at the Sports Complex.

Survey goes out within a month; city has $100K contract with consultant

VANDALIA — The city of Vandalia is launching a new master plan for its Parks and Recreation Department, and is about to ask residents what changes they want to see in their parks system.

Vandalia recently 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.

Within the next month or so, 300 to 400 residents will receive a survey sent to their home, which will request input regarding amenities and services they’d like to see provided by the parks system.

Those who do not receive a survey in the mail will still have the opportunity to complete one virtually through the city’s website. Along with surveys, the city will host community engagement events at each park, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Clark.

“I think that will be vital because we’ve got a number of what we call pocket parks, in smaller parts of neighborhoods, that at this point in time are pretty much just green space with park benches, so we’ve had some people in the community ask us to develop those more, or to put playground equipment or some sort of activity in these parks,” Clark said. “And, in our larger parks, it will allow the community to come in to tell us what they would like to see, in terms of the maintenance level, what we need to bring up-to-date, and anything new they would like to see or recommend.”

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City Manager Dan Wendt said the master plan process will be thorough, collecting information from parks staff, city residents who are parks users, school officials and businesses. The consulting firm will then incorporate the community input into the final plan.

“They’ll create a capital plan, they’ll make staffing recommendations, and they’ll set out concrete goals for us to work to achieve over the next 10 years,” Wendt said.

The city has also created a steering committee for the plan project, Wendt said, which includes participation from multiple residents, a police officer, a firefighter, teachers, a lawyer, a Butler High School student, and some city staff members, as well as Montgomery County Board of Development Disabilities Services Superintendent Dr. Pamela Combs.

At the end of this year, the consultant will present its plan draft to the steering committee, which will then vote to recommend it for adoption by city council, Wendt said.

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As part of the 2022 city of Vandalia budget, the city has 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 process and what initial feedback we get before we make these (improvements),” Wendt said. “We’re committed to making those investments and this process is going to help us make the right investments.”

According to Clark, construction on some improvements will begin early next year.

“Our goal is for the playgrounds and any of those types of things where there are already funds allotted to begin as early as possible in 2023,” he said.

However, construction of new restroom facilities at the Cassel Hills Golf Course and Art Park, both of which are estimated to cost around $75,000 of allotted ARPA funds, may still take place this year, Wendt said.

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