CARBONDALE — The Carbondale Park District is making a long-term plan, and its board wants to know what community members want and need from their park district over the next 10 years.
To do this, the district has scheduled a series of online town halls in which staff and board members are on hand to present the district’s 10-year strategic plan and to take input and questions from community members. The first virtual meeting was held Tuesday evening.
“Citizen input is going to be critical to producing the best final product we can,” Park District Executive Director Kathy Renfro said Tuesday, opening the meeting.
A powerpoint displayed the district’s vision and goals. Among the goals are potentially hiring a business manager and community outreach positions, as well as developing a skatepark in Carbondale. However, up top, and in bold, was the implementation of systems that will allow the district to operate smoothly and effectively. That's important as the district finds itself in financial difficulty as its tax dollars cover less and less of its bills.
Dorcy Prosser was the sole attendee Tuesday night. She suggested that the district create a shorter-term plan with concrete action items. She said this could be a trust-building demonstration for community members.
“Just showing that you’re not just waiting for things to happen,” Prosser said during the meeting.
Like many this holiday season, Carbondale leaders are finding ways to be festive while keeping socially distanced.
This need for trust stems from the very public debate in recent years between the city and the park district — which is an independent taxing body separate from the city — about financial management of the district and how that has impacted the services and maintenance it can provide for its facilities. A recent ballot referendum indicated that residents of the park district wanted the city to begin the process of exploring taking over some of the district’s operations. That has also been part of the ongoing discussion between the two bodies.
Prosser said the dialog has been concerning recently between the city of Carbondale and the district about the possibility of the city taking over some of the district’s services. She pointed to contentious meetings between both the City Council and the Park District's board as an example.
Prosser's comment spoke directly to another of the district’s long-term goals, which is to address the poor public perception of the district’s financial problems and deferred maintenance at facilities.
Renfro and the other district officials in attendance hoped that subsequent meetings will have more robust attendance.
“It’s hard to make decisions for the community when it’s not clear what the community wants and won’t communicate with us,” Park District Commissioner Kirsten Trimble said Tuesday.
More than three years after organizers began in earnest to push for a canine play place in city limits, work began Tuesday on Carbondale's first dog park.
Speaking Wednesday, Renfro said residents in the Park District should come with all their ideas. Much of what was discussed Tuesday was about public perception and financial issues, but she encouraged other ideas, too.
The next scheduled meetings are 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday. Those interested in attending via video conference can find more information at www.cpkd.org/events.
However, attendees can also call in at 312-626-6799. The meeting ID is 9031181650 and the password is 1650. The Park District website also says if someone is unable to attend, comments may be sent to Kathy Renfro at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Carbondale Park District, P.O. Box 1326, Carbondale, IL 62903.
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