District looks at next steps in Recreation Center master plan

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

By Kathryn Lucariello

HIN editor

Now that the Recreation Center Needs Assessment has been released to the public, the Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District (HISID) will continue Phase II of the Rec Center master planning process.

Commissioners heard an overview at their June 23 business meeting from Recreation Center Director Doug Joyce and District Manager Kevin Crosson.

Phase I of the master plan was a comprehensive facilities review that was completed in 2004 by Morrison Architecture.

The facilities review's purpose was to generate a "conceptual" idea for new construction and for improving the amenities offered at the Rec Center, Joyce said.

The first task of the second phase was to get a needs assessment survey from property owners on the Rec Center. This was done last summer by Professor Joseph Gaa of the University of Arkansas.

With a 36-percent return, which is considered very good, property owners clearly showed that for infrastructure they want a fitness center, an indoor pool and walking and biking trails. For programs they want fitness, computer, adult education and arts and crafts classes and organized trips.

Joyce expressed concern that some property owners "jumped the gun" following the survey by demanding immediate action.

"You have to understand the survey is a snapshot of where the community was at," he said. "The same with the Morrison document. At that time, it was based on 40 homes being built each year. We're not seeing that now -- maybe 20 homes a year."

He noted the changing demographics of the community in terms of the response about recreational needs.

"If this study had been done 20 years ago, no doubt golf would have been number one," Joyce said.

He said the second project of Phase II is to hire a strategic planning firm to complete a planning summit.

"We need to form a coalition of organizations that are stakeholders," he said. This would involve inviting several area groups as partners to meetings.

Crosson said he had been involved in more than one project of this kind in Fayetteville where several partners were part of the strategic planning process.

"If we move forward in that manner, then we become public," said Commissioner Frank Pierson. "Partners would share in that facility. And that facility could be built somewhere other than Holiday Island. That's what a partnership could mean."

He later commented he didn't know how the district could build such a facility "if we remain exclusive."

Because Holiday Island is not a municipality but supported by property owner assessments, its amenities have not been open to public use until the board's recent decision to make the golf courses open to the public on a limited basis.

The price tag of a Recreation Complex has some commissioners expressing concern.

"What's the difference between a 'must' and a want?" asked Chairman Harley Barnum. "...Eighty percent of the people (responding in the Needs Assessment) said they'd be willing to pay less than $10 a month more. That's not a 'must,' in my opinion."

"I go to the Berryville Community Center and pay $10 a month," said property owner Don King. "What with gas prices, that's getting expensive. There's no reason we couldn't do this here and charge a use fee."

Crosson noted the Berryville Community Center was "not done with one funding source." He said there were major corporate donations and suggested adding banks and hotels to the list of stakeholders who would be invited to the discussion.

He stressed, however, that the master plan is a long process.

"There's a misperception in the community that just because we had a needs assessment, we should immediately approve funding for a new community center, or just because people want a bubble over the pool, we can immediately go out and get one."

The next step is to draw up a request for proposals for a strategic planning facilitator, Crosson said.

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