I have no preference on any option
Columbia Local Park Improvement Plan Comments
July 17, 2018
• All the uses of the local park that are proposed can and should be accommodated with some modifications. However, none of the 3 site plan options are the optimal use of the space.
• M-NCPPC-Parks states that special consideration will be given to residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to the park. The demographics section of the web page does not provide data on the participation of those residents. Transparency is critical to the public acceptance of the final plan. The residency data should be posted on the web page.
• The County Council District that includes the park is located is a majority-minority community. Those residents were not well, if at all, represented at the community meeting. The minority participation data in sports does not support the predominance of pickleball courts in the proposed 3 options. Futsal and tennis have higher participation rates of minorities.
• The proposed options do not fully conform with the M-NCPPC 2017 Park, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan – October 2017.
• The 2017 PROS Plan serves as the planning policy for parks and recreation in Montgomery County to the year 2030 and beyond. It assesses needs and recommends strategies for the delivery of park and recreation facilities, protection of natural resource areas, and preservation of historic/cultural areas and agricultural lands, and is required by the State of Maryland for funding by Program Open Space.
• The PROS Plan Service Delivery Strategy for pickleball calls for “Recreational Programming and Facility Synergy” where the two outdoor courts can be “paired” with the building’s gymnasium also providing indoor court time. However, there is no recreational programming being offered at the Praisner CRC. (See CHAPTER 4 – Parks and Recreation, Page 109)
• Recreational programming of pickleball at Praisner CRC is rational prerequisite to introducing pickleball to the majority-minority community residents that frequent Columbia Local Park.
• The PROS Plan Service Delivery Strategy for pickleball calls for court conversion which could include eliminating 1 tennis court and constructing two pickleball courts based on the 2 Court Model – located in local parks. This could result in a maximum of 2 tennis courts, 4 pickleball courts, and a dog park at Columbia Local Park given the current layout for 5 tennis courts.
• The “noise issue” with pickleball is not addressed in the 3 options. A simple Google search of the issue, “pickleball is noisy”, will show the nature of the problem in community environments. There has been reportedly a noise problem at the M-NCPPC Potomac Community Neighborhood Park that has resulted in a locked gate and restricted hours of play.
• Other Columbia Local Park sports venues and dog park patrons, as well as nearby residents, if any, could be adversely impacted by the noise. Noise abatement is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.
• There are 325 pickleball players across the entirety of Montgomery County according to the data presented at the Community Meeting. A pickleball configuration of more than 2 courts in any one location is not justifiable given the demographics, number of players, and Geographical Distribution: Current inventory and future facilities to be delivered in proportion to percent of County population in each subarea of the County. Moreover, 2 courts would be consistent with the PROS Plan 2 Court Model – located in local parks.
• Comments on the M-NCPPC Parks 3 options for pickleball anticipate a large participation rate from greater Montgomery County and Howard County in a local park. This is not consistent with the nature of a local park and operational and user capacity considerations.
• Appropriate consideration should be given to the bigger picture for “Recreational Programming and Facility Synergy” countywide to meet the demand for facilities on a more rational basis vs concentrating facilities on one local park. Larger regional or recreational parks are the appropriate venues for the 4 Court Model as stated in the PROS Plan. The PROS Plan states that the future unmet need is 13.8 pickleball courts. It is not rational to concentrate up to 6 courts in one local park based on the future unmet need of 13.8 courts countywide.
• There is justification based on the community demographics for a dedicated pilot futsal court. However, in order to make it work in harmony with the other uses for pickleball, tennis, and dogs, a fenced futsal court should be sited on one of the 3 basketball courts near the entrance to the park.
• The PROS Plan makes reference to identifying opportunities with basketball courts for multiple uses such as futsal, as well as possible re-purposing of underutilized courts. Lighting of the courts would significantly enhance the use.
• The PROS Plan states that “the Department of Parks should perform an objective and data-based analysis to look at this opportunity for a pilot futsal court on underutilized sports courts near an existing rectangular field.” (CHAPTER 4 - Parks and Recreation, Page 117). Columbia Local Park meets the criteria established in the PROS Plan for a pilot futsal court outside of the footprint of the 3 proposed plans.
• The cost of re-purposing a basketball court for futsal is $6,00 - $10,500 not including the fencing and lighting cost.
• Tennis is the most popular by far of the sports under consideration for Columbia Local Park. The participation rate will grow exponentially with the new racket loaner initiative being offered at the Praisner CRC and the new initiatives proposed with MCPS for all students under the proposed Comprehensive Service Delivery Strategy by the Montgomery County Tennis Association in conjunction with the Montgomery County Tennis and Education Foundation.
• There should be no reduction in the number of tennis courts, and no futsal or pickleball court overlays at Columbia Local Park. Two tennis courts should be retained with blended lines for junior tennis.
• Consideration could be given to holding a charrette in coordination with the Recreation Department and East County Service Center to get input primarily from community residents and service center based agencies and nonprofits on improving these plans to better serve local residents. It should be noted that the Recreation Department is an essential partner under the PROS Plan concept of “Recreational Programming and Facility Synergy”.
• In the final analysis, development of Columbia Local Park should be consistent with the M-NCPPC 2017 PROS Plan, and local community comments pursuant to the PROS Plan.