Fairfield hopes to see jump in parks system quality: Here’s how

Fairfield’s parks director said she wants the city’s parks system to be considered “first class” and has a plan to work toward that goal in five years.

Parks and Recreation Director Tiphanie Howard presented a summaryof a new five-year strategic plan to be unveiled next month. It starts, Howard told City Council on Monday night, by telling and selling their story.

“We have so much to offer,” Howard said. “We do so much in Fairfield, just in our department, we’re not selling our story good enough. What can we do to make that better.”

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The strategic plan is a short-term vision focusing on operations and structure, said City Manager Mark Wendling. It may, however, include some aspects of a master plan, which focuses on long-term visions, he said.

Howard presented highlights of her department’s strategic plan, and the full plan will be available after the city’s new branding initiative is unveiled on March 9.

“This strategic plan will serve as a blueprint for the positive transformation of the department in order to reach the next level for our community,” Howard said. “We will align our resources to meet the goals identified in this plan as we become better prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow.”

Fairfield oversees 41 parks and recreation facilities, maintains about 845 acres and has more than 1,000 acres in the city’s inventory, including 75 acres of nature preserves, two historic cemeteries, two golf courses and 14 miles of multi-use paths. Howard also said her department also offers hundreds of programs per year.

Park systems in Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Colorado delivered more than $5.4 billion in economic value, according to the National Recreation and Park Association, which cited five park studies.

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The plan will highlight a number of action areas, including:

• maintaining, expanding and enhancing recreation offerings

• continuing to be a conservation advocate by protecting natural areas, watersheds and environmentally sensitive lands

• developing and sustaining quality assets, and investing in revitalizing assets.

“The most growth happening in the parks department will be over the next five years,” said Mayor Steve Miller, who called the parks and recreation “a very important department” for the city.

Officials will also focus on smaller items, such as the 55-gallon drums used as trash cans in many of the parks. The city plans to replace the 430 trash cans in the parks that last at least a decade.

“It’s the little things that make you first-class, including trash cans,” said Howard.

But Howard said an issue the city will face is one many other parks departments are facing: competing for grant money.

“We’re finding it a little bit more challenging to find funding, specifically through (the) grant process and partnerships,” she said.

Fairfield hopes to receive about $737,000 in grants for a pair of Harbin Park improvements.

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