ENID, Okla. — Steve Kime, director of marketing and public relations for the city of Enid sat down and talked with Assistant City Manager Joan Riley about the upcoming March 5 Quality of Life Initiative that focuses on parks and recreation.
Question 1: On March 5, the citizens of Enid will be voting on a bond proposal that would generate $50 million in revenue to upgrade the city parks system. The term “quality of life” has been used in the discussion. Is this about parks or about quality of life for the citizens in Enid?
Answer: This vote is all about quality of life. It’s about building a city that residents want to live, work, play and raise a family in. Enid has been moving toward this goal for several years — focusing on economic and retail development, infrastructure needs, technology and revitalization of our downtown. This initiative brings us to an awareness of the need to provide opportunities for healthier lifestyles, wellness and activities outside of our homes.
Question 2: According to education officials, 500-plus elementary school-age children have been introduced into the Enid school system. How does this bond proposal impact them?
Answer: Some feel we have adequate parks and sports fields, yet it is a struggle to accommodate all the leagues for playtime and especially for practice times. As our fastest growing age group (being elementary children) joins leagues and wants to play sports, this problem becomes greater.
Question 3: In this proposal, there is the creation of new parks. Why do we need new parks?
Answer: The City of Enid asked Howel and Vancuren Inc. of Tulsa to do a study on all of our park and recreation facilities and report back to us — good and bad — and then help us by creating a Master Plan for us to use in our decision-making going forward. They look at every park and its relationship to neighborhoods and the community as a whole. The result was that we were well covered in neighborhood parks with the exception of the northeast and the northwest sections of town. The northwest area can be solved with a neighborhood park built across the street from Prairie View School, and the northeast is another area but land has not been identified. The community parks identified consist of the Central Park area leading up to the downtown area from Garriott. The other park identified would replace South Government Springs. And it would also be the location of an aquatic center replacing Champlin Pool, a park and recreational facility and a potential community center.
Question 4: Oklahoma is in a drought! Water is a topic of great concern. Will there be enough water to meet the demand of all the parks?
Answer: Water is a natural resource that we all need to conserve whenever possible. The city of Enid will always place high importance in our planning and budgeting of water needs as it is one of our core services. For several years, the administration staff has taken a proactive approach to understand and meet the water needs of our great community. The city of Enid spends $1.5 million annually on water development.
Recently, $4 million has been spent on building two new water towers that assist in water pressure infrastructure needs. In addition, we are acquiring water rights for an additional 4.5 million gallons a day. We are bringing online this year an additional one million gallons of water per day and have planned to double that in 2014. We continue to research means and costs to reuse wastewater capabilities for industrial use. The use of so-called, “gray water” for industry frees up water for increased residential use. The treatment of wastewater will provide as much as 5 million gallons per day of treated outflow water providing a variety of uses, including irrigation of our parks.
The Quality of Life initiative is a strategic response to community demand; it requires forward-thinking designs and planning. The new parks will include the most conservative use of water possible, including the appropriate choice of plants, trees and grasses that are tolerant of drought.
We will also investigate every opportunity for irrigation from retention areas within our parks for use on grass, landscape and trees.
We view water needs seriously as it is one of our basic functions as a city. The City of Enid is committed to this ongoing and crucial effort to meet the water needs of our citizens.
Question 5: I understand an assessment was done of our parks. What can you tell me of the findings regarding safety of the equipment and parks?
Answer: As I mentioned, a park study and master plan was done by Howel and Vancuren out of Tulsa. Many of our parks have old playground equipment that does not meet today’s safety standards. All of this equipment needs to be replaced. Safety lighting was another strong suggestion, especially along the trail system. Playgrounds today are different than they were 20 years ago or more when these were installed. They include the encouragement of fine and gross motor skills and provide for improvement of overall health through play activity.
Question 6: ADA accessibility is an important component in our lives today. Does this bond proposal meet this need?
Answer: This proposal will update all our parks with ADA accessibility and in a shorter time frame. We are moving toward this goal now, but with limited funds it will take time to bring everything up to date.
Question 7: Five-thousand surveys were sent out during the assessment process. What did the surveys reveal? In other words, what did the citizens of Enid want in their parks system?
Answer: The surveys revealed that Enid citizens want a strong park and recreation system. They ranked highly special events, fitness opportunities, sports and adventure. They indicated a need for a community center and activities related to arts and crafts. In regard to our current facilities, they ranked the need for restrooms and water fountains highly along with general update of facilities and better maintenance. Ninety percent of the respondents agreed that the parks and recreation is an essential service to the city.
Question 8: What happens to Champlin Pool?
Answer: Champlin pool has served this community well, but is in its last years of life. Maintenance cost is drastically going to increase over the next couple of years. The pool had a life expectancy of 40 and is now in its 60s. The site will not be left an empty pool but would be filled in and either a playground or parking will take its place )or any number of other ideas that may not have been thought of yet). The community may have suggestions as well for that site. It would not serve our purpose to improve quality of life in one area by leaving it blighted in another; so I can assure you that something will be done and a deep hole will not be left to deteriorate.
Question 9: We have Crosslin Park, Kellet Softball Fields and the Enid Soccer complex. What happens to these facilities?
Answer: The plan addresses each of them with improvements or refurbishment that may include upgrades to existing fields, lighting, parking and building upgrades. The soccer complex is limited as it is a detention area for the COE and many things cannot be done to it that would compromise the flow of stormwater. But it does address the existing buildings and access ramps over the levees.
Question 10: What can you tell us about the creation of a “central park” in downtown Enid?
Answer: This is a green space lined with trees, and it will have a natural slope down toward the Convention Hall and Event Center. It will have a perimeter walkway and be very eye-catching opening leading up to the downtown area. The natural slope of the land will lead to an amphitheater that can be used for open air venues and community gatherings or simply a great place to eat lunch and enjoy the scenery.
Question 11: The proposal contains a new community park on the eastside of the community. What can you tell us about this new “community park?”
Answer: The majority of the park is to replace existing parks of South Government Springs and Champlin Pool. It covers more than 200 acres and will be designed to fill it up – however, all that will be built at first are where our current needs are. Such as there is room for nine softball fields, but we plan to start with only five, the same for soccer and football. A perimeter trail around the park would equate to just more than two miles of localized trail. Aquatic center replaces Champlin Pool and adds features that are very popular with young families such as zero-level entry and splash areas as well as lap swim capabilities. There is a much improved and Skate Park planned, along with basketball courts and a Community Center. An office for Park and Recreation would be placed in this park to allow citizens access to park activities and information.
Question 12: Here’s an important question. What is the financial impact on the citizens of Enid?
Answer: Everyone needs to determine what they are willing to pay for enhanced quality of life. For the sales tax issue, it would raise our sales tax from 8.35 percent to 8.85 percent, so every time you spend a hundred dollars it would add an additional 50 cents. This put us about average in the state for sales tax.
The property tax issue is a potential for a continuation of the bridge bond tax initiated five years ago. The homeowner whose home is valued at $100, 000 by Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson, $8.41 a month will be the first year at year three it goes to $7.30 and over the 20 year life it averages about $5.20 a month.
Question 13: Studies have shown that CEOs say quality of life is important to maintain and to attract employees. How will this bond proposal impact Enid’s quality of life?
Answer: Enid has long since been the incubator for growing companies. Some have reached international levels of achievement and acknowledgment. We have learned first-hand the last couple of years with Continental Resources moving their home office to Oklahoma City. For these companies to stay in Enid, they need to recruit the best talent to work for them. Good schools, retail opportunities, housing and activities for their families, especially their children, are driving forces to where a person wants to live. I have personally lived in several different cities, and the first thing we investigate before we moved were the schools (Enid has invested greatly on this point), housing (there are lots of nice homes available in Enid), shopping capabilities (this next year will add numerous improvements to our capabilities and offerings); and will my children be happy and have places to play (Can we answer that adequately now?)?