A consulting firm is helping the local parks district, city to craft a master plan for all parks in Crook County

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The City of Prineville, which now owns two parks — the Barnes Butte Recreation Area and Crooked River Wetland Complex — is teaming up with Crook County Parks and Recreation District to complete a community-wide parks system master plan.

Work has begun on a joint parks system master plan that features a partnership between the City of Prineville and Crook County Parks and Recreation District.

The idea was first announced in late February after attempts to secure two separate grants for a Barnes Butte property master plan were both unexpectedly successful.

Armed with one National Parks System grant for $50,000 and another Oregon State Parks grant for $90,000, city staff decided to broaden the scope of the master plan, reach out to the parks district and create a communitywide parks system master plan.

Associate Planner Casey Kaiser explained that the decision was made in part because creation of the Crooked River Wetland Complex and purchase of 460 acres of Barnes Butte property had drastically increased the amount of park land the city owns.

The parks district is paying another $50,000 to fund the master plan effort.

The master plan effort — guided by Portland-based consulting firm, MIG — was launched in May and the Prineville City Council was provided an update on the process Tuesday evening. John Phaenis, a park and recreation planner for MIG and the lead project manager for the local master plan, provided the council a detailed rundown of the Unified Park and Recreation System Plan.

"This is the first of several meetings we'd like to have to keep you informed and involved," he said. "This plan will be based on the aspirations, the ideas and the needs of the community." Phaenis explained that the first of four phases is nearing completion and involved touring the parks district and city land and determining the state of the parks within those areas.

"Prineville has a lot of parks and that is a really big opportunity," he noted. "What we are going to start looking at is what is in them today. What condition are they in? Once we start hearing from folks, we will start finding out what people want to see. What do they like? What is not working? What needs to be fixed? This is going to be a big aspect of this." Phaenis observed that the parks district and city comprises a big area that includes 78 acres of developed parks, 283 acres of special use sites with singular uses such as Meadow Lakes Golf Course or the Crooked River Wetland Complex and 460 acres of undeveloped land in the city-owned Barnes Butte property.

"There are a lot of sites and a lot to look into," he remarked. Looking beyond the parks district and city borders, Phaenis stressed that, according to a 2017 study, the Central Oregon area makes a large amount of money from tourism. He went on to point out that Prineville is within a 30-mile radius of numerous communities and tourist destinations including Bend, Redmond and Madras, as well as Millican and Ochoco National Forest.

"Why not think about that in terms of what parks and recreation offer here in the city. It is a very convenient location," Phaenis stated. "There are all sorts of resources that are nearby, so it is not just these amazing parks and recreation facilities just inside of Prineville and inside the (parks) district."

Having wrapped up the first phase, work has now begun on development of a community engagement plan. Phaenis said that plan will guide how master plan leaders conduct outreach. The effort will include interviews with people who "have a really good connection with what's out there and what's going on in the community."

Phaenis added that project leaders have already begun to reach out to numerous organizations throughout the community in hopes of learning from young and old alike what the community wants. The third phase of the master plan project will focus on prioritizing what the city and parks district want to do with their various facilities. The work will emphasize how the entities will accomplish prioritized goals and who they will afford them.

The final step is to shepherd the master plan through the review and adoption process. Phaenis hopes to complete this process during the spring or summer of next year.

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