Government / Politics

Residents provide input at parks master plan meeting

Architectural firm explains how parks master plan will be written and will include community suggestions. Residents can still send in ideas online

A small but engaged crowd showed up at Cerra Vista Elementary School on June 21 to hear the fourth of several presentations on Hollister’s parks master plan that will be written by O’Dell Engineering, a Modesto-based landscaping architectural company. O’Dell’s Chad Kennedy led off the discussion by introducing the audience to an interactive questionnaire that let them cast their votes via their cell phones for various features they would like to see in area parks.

District 4 Hollister City Councilman Jim Gillio, who attended the meeting, commented that he was excited to see the number of people who turned out.

“I heard a lot of great ideas and I’m excited to see the draft of the parks master plan, get it out to the public for some comments, and then put them into the final draft,” he said. “Parks are a passion of mine. The Whale Park (Valley View Park) is near my house. I can walk to it with my daughter.”

Gillio said he and his daughter have been “sampling” many of the parks around the city.

“We’ve been to the new park over on Apricot Lane, the new park on Santa Ana, and up to Park Hill since they’ve redone it,” he said. “I think this is a good start and I’m actually glad that I’ve joined the council at a time when the parks master plan is being updated.”

He addressed the crowd size, saying that he has been trying to spread the word about the park meetings through social media.

“As I was sitting in the back of the room, I was sending out social media messages to groups inside my district, trying to get more people to come,” he said. “Our city can work better with BenitoLink and the Free Lance and anywhere else that we can get the word out. We just need to be better at using social media.”

David Rubcic, Hollister’s interim engineer, explained the process in bringing O’Dell Engineering on board to help the city devise the new parks master plan. He said that in 2002, the city approved the current master plan, which had a definitive explanation on how parks would be developed — one stipulation being that no park would be less than five acres.

“We’re not practicing that any more because we now have the financing capabilities to do pocket parks,” he said. “All the new subdivisions are joining Community Facilities District 4 (CFD-4), which pays for the maintenance of this infrastructure; the parks, street lights and sidewalks.”

Because the city is no longer following the 2002 master plan (which replaced a 1989 plan), it was decided it was time to update it because it is no longer pertinent to current needs of the community. Rubcic said that after sending out a Request for Proposals (RFP) three architectural firms were interviewed before O’Dell was selected.

“We got them under contract and they have a scope of work to do and we’re about a third of the way in the process,” he said. “Once the plan is reviewed and submitted to council for approval and adopted there will be some environmental clearances that need to be done. It will become a guidebook for the city and give us a starting point to get to full implementation.”

Rubcic said the parks master plan will be based on the city’s General Plan, which is also being updated. The goal, he said, is to tell the city where residents want parks and what they want in them. It will also outline maintenance strategies, projects and how to finance them.

“Once the plan is adopted, we’ll go out to a consultant to help us evaluate the current impact fees to determine if they’re enough to pay for this plan,” he said. “If they’re not, we go through the Prop. 218 process to ensure that we raise the impact fees and are collecting them properly, which will help with the financing.”

Additionally, Rubcic said the city will need to look at grant opportunities, which cannot be done without a parks master plan in place because those who hand out the money want to see how and where the city intends to spend it.

Chad Kennedy said O’Dell has worked with a number of cities to devise their park master plans. He explained that two components are involved in coming up with such a plan: The first is to inventory all the parks, equipment, trails, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility, shade structures, literally everything a park might contain. This information is used to develop a capital improvement program plan (CIP) for the city staff to use to make decisions.

“The second step is community involvement to find out what it envisions over the next 20 years,” he said. “The survey is a crucial component and from that we’ll develop the draft master plan that will include a look into the future as to what the community will be, regarding demographics and transportation. We compile all that information into a set of recommendations for future development and how to repair or improve existing facilities. The CIP will place priorities on the projects so the staff won’t have to flounder about trying to figure out things they need to do, but they have a list of where to go first.”

Mike Chambless, city management services director/assistant city manager, said the public meetings were designed for the purpose of putting together a “wish list” for recreation and parks. He explained the master plan will spell out what projects need to be done by certain dates. In actuality, though, the plan is only a guide whose goals are dictated by the economic realities of each year.

“This is a portion of the contract, the public outreach,” he said of the meeting. “There’s an electronic opportunity to weigh-in for the people who can’t make it to the meetings. It does appear there is an under represented portion of the community, that would be the Spanish-speaking community, and we’ve been brainstorming how to reach out to them.”

Chambless described a master plan as a dream sheet and that it is up to elected officials to follow it as close as possible. He said the city council recently amended the physical size restriction of five acres to allow for smaller parks. He said major projects could fall by the wayside due to lack of funding or political will, but smaller projects such as bathrooms could still be accomplished in a reasonable time.

To submit ideas for the parks master plan, go to: Spanish or English or visit Councilman Jim Gillio’s Facebook page for updates.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]