Tallmadge — The city has dealt with industrial, retail and residential development plans over the past 38 years — and now it feels the time has come to turn attention to its parks and recreation.

A Parks and Recreation Master Plan was created in 1980 and while changes have been made in that department, the plan itself has been the only one in place for almost 40 years.

"The health and wellness trends of today are notably different from those in previous decades. Recreational programming and facilities have become a major priority to individuals and families over the last 38 years," says Mayor David Kline.

The city has started the process of updating its Parks and Recreation Master Plan. When complete, the plan will guide the future development, operations and programs of the city’s parks and recreation system.

"We’re looking at the needs and wants of the community [that’s] out there, to make sure it’s on the same page we are," the mayor explains. "Do they want something different in the parks, more parks?"

He described the process as "a master brainstorming of what our system should look like. It’s been done in the past but it’s been a long, long time."

To accomplish this, the city has partnered with Brandstetter Carroll Inc., a firm that specializes in providing architectural, engineering and planning services to cities, counties and other units of local government.

"Community input will be a critical component in developing a successful master plan," says Kline. "By involving those who use our parks and recreational facilities, we will be able to develop and improve programs and facilities to meet their needs."

Jessica Simons, Parks and Recreation Superintendent, agrees. "We’re really just looking to see what the needs of the community are. We can sit in our offices and say these are the trends and this is what we think the community needs and what we think we need, but we could be completely off base."

The city is currently seeking community input through simple surveys. The surveys, along with community forums and stakeholder meetings, will be used throughout the process to gather information.

There are two surveys available for residents to provide input: for online versions, one is at www.surveymonkey.com/?r/?TallmadgeParks and the other is at http://?tallmadgeparks.mindmixer.com/. Paper copies of the surveys can also be picked up from the front desk of the Tallmadge Recreation Center, located at 46 North Munroe Road.

The surveys ask for residents’ experiences with Tallmadge facilities and programs and their quality and any reasons offered why a facility and/?or program couldn’t be utilized. They also seek input on:

• suggestions of needed upgrades, such as parking, playground equipment, trails, lighting, security and Wi-Fi;

• facilities needing to be developed or expanded; some examples listed are baseball/?softball fields, small neighborhood parks, walking and hiking trails, aquatic center, spraygrounds/?splash pads, senior center, indoor swimming pools/?water parks, outdoor stage or amphitheater, off-leash dog park, skateboarding area and BMX course.

• programs needing to be developed or expanded with some examples of preschool programs to adult fitness and wellness programs, swim lessons, before and after school programs, teen programs, pet exercise programs, programs for mental/?physically challenged and programs for persons ages 50 and older.

"We want to make sure the money put back in the parks is well spent and is in line with what people are looking for," says Simons.

"We have great parks and we’re constantly doing stuff in the parks," the mayor says. He mentions Freedom Trail, saying "We really want to expand that and utilize it, that it’s part of the park system even though it’s Metro Parks." Kline says he has been riding his bike on the trails recently, going into both Akron and Kent.

"I’d love to see an amphitheater in Lions Park, like a little Blossom [Music Center]," he adds. With the addition of "a little stage, we could have our Concerts in the Park down in there with better parking instead of on the Tallmadge Circle."

While the process is just starting, Kline says "by the end of the year we hope to have it all put together."

"Our department exists to serve the community and I am looking forward to hearing everyone’s feedback," says Simons. "I am confident that this process will allow us to create a parks and recreation system that meets the needs of our community now and for years to come."

Editor Marsha McKenna can be reached at 330-541-9430 or email mmckenna@recordpub.com.