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Future parks projects, funding process discussed

The San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation held a public meeting on the county’s future parks and services in Fallbrook on July 1 to discuss which public parks and projects matter the most to community members, and what residents would like to see developed next.

According to Brian Albright, director of parks and recreation, the county is currently looking at how the funding of future services will be managed, and what can be done to enhance the services currently provided.

“The community needs to provide us with feedback so that we can give them the best service possible,” said Albright, who stated that Fallbrook’s community forum was just one of 11 meetings being held throughout San Diego County within a two-week period.

At the events, community members were asked to express their thoughts and discuss what they believed to be valuable for future San Diego County Parks and Recreation. According to Albright, major concerns that were brought up by community members included fighting childhood obesity.

In addition to discussing their concerns with the county representatives at the forum, community members were also informed that they can be a part of a community survey, which would help the county receive a basic idea for what the community truly feels to be important for the area.

“It has become clear to [the Department] that within the last couple of years, our general funds have not been what they used to be, and we are still trying to provide the same level of services with less,” said Albright. “However, there is a greater demand for services, leaving us trying to find a number of ways to bridge the gap.”

The survey, which is tentatively scheduled to be released on the San Diego Parks and Recreation website August 10, will help the department decide how to more appropriately invest its general funds.

This is not a new problem for the department. According to Albright, the parks department has been looking at solutions for several years, but the economic decline has made it that much more difficult for the county to provide services expected.

“We are still a few years from full recovery, but we don’t want our programs to decline,” said Albright.

Greenplay LLC, a consulting firm for parks and recreational service providers that has provided the survey, has also been hired to help the county discover what is most important to community members and see what services still need to be provided by the county.

Karon Badalementi, a representative of Greenplay, said that the value of the survey is not necessarily to prioritize one service as more important than another, but instead to see how much more can be offered without overspending the budget.

“We are able to look at services provided for different parts of the county and help the department fill in gaps [of information],” said Badalementi. “Some of the services in unincorporated areas, such as Fallbrook, may have some of their services provided by private, for profit providers, such as the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club.”

“The survey will be instrumental in helping the county’s park users give input, while the county can see where the priority lies with its unmet needs. Every part of the county’s new services, from dog parks, state parks, trails and their maintenance and construction must be finished. That’s a tall order,” said Badalementi.

With the survey’s findings, the Department of Parks hopes to be able to set a benchmark strategy that will allow for major changes that will occur throughout the next decade.

“No one should expect a huge initial impact, this is a plan set for the next 10 years and beyond,” said Albright.

Residents of Fallbrook have the opportunity to provide input to the county’s plans, said Albright.

“Fallbrook has been supportive and very vocal of its demand, making it one of the key components of this plan,” said Albright. “That is why it one of the few communities that still has an operational community center.”

For more information about the Department of Parks and Recreation’s plans, go to http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/parks/index.html.

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