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Master Plan: Purpose and Planning Process

The general purpose of the Master Plan for Parks, Trails and Open Space is to guide future park planning, acquisition and development activities. Specific objectives include:

  • Fulfill the requirements identified in the 1999 Benton County Comprehensive Plan.
  • Help ensure the General and Specific Goals identified in the Comprehensive Plan are adhered to and that the public has ample opportunity to build a plan that addresses both the General and Specific Goals.
  • Serve as a road map for enhancing current facilities and creating new parks, natural areas and trails.

Process and Committee Structure

The Planning Team used a facilitated, committee-based, public participation process to engage citizens, landowners and public officials in a respectful dialogue concerning open space, parks and trails planning. As noted in the Introduction, three committees were created to help guide the planning process:

  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was populated with persons who had a special expertise that could benefit the planning process. A Staff Conservationist for the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District would be a typical committee member.
  • The Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) was comprised of locally elected officials such as County Commissioners, Parks Commission officials and citizens interested in developing park policy.
  • The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was made up of interested county residents.

 

In addition to the committees, concerned citizens provided input to the process in varying degrees. For example, some attended citizen open-house meetings while others filled out surveys.

Facilitation Process

The public meetings were designed to provide a safe and respectful environment where participants’ comments were respectfully considered. At least one Benton County Commissioner attended all of the public meetings—a statement of support that did not go unnoticed by the participants. All outputs from this approach were presented to the subcommittees and the general citizenry, and included:

  • Meeting Minutes, Agendas and Small Group Exercises
  • Maps and Diagrams
  • Concept Plans and Drawings

 

Local leadership and community desires were the cornerstone of the planning process. All meetings—from the initial Kick-off Meeting in March to the Visioning and Goal Setting Meeting in April to the Open House in June—were designed to build on the information given to the Planning Team by the committee members and incorporated into the planning process in easy-to-understand language.

Kick Off Meeting

The initial Kick-off meeting was held on March 5, 2002, at the County Courthouse Building in Foley.

Purpose:

To identify expectations of the planning process.

Outcome:

A synopsis of the results of the small group exercises identified a few general assumptions. In general, the group felt:

  • Glad about the quality of life and the funding and support for the parks, trails and open spaces of the County.
  • Sad about the land and facility uses currently and the lack of cooperation among the various stakeholder groups.
  • Mad about the land and facility uses currently and the lack of cooperation among the various stakeholder groups.

 

Therefore, the people were:

  • Mostly happy with the quality of life in Benton County.
  • Concerned about losing the things that contribute to that quality; namely, natural resources and recreation areas.
  • Frustrated with the past lack of cooperation among the various agencies and groups.
  • Happy about the current focus on the open space, parks and trail development planning.

 

A full set of Kick-off Meeting notes can be found in the Appendix.

Visioning and Goal Setting

This meeting was held April 11, 2002, at the Benton County Courthouse.

Purpose:

To explain current County conditions as they related to natural resources and open space, parks and facilities, and trails, and to identify future opportunities for expansion.

Outcome:

Using maps depicting existing conditions, the Bonestroo Team presented a short explanation of each of the existing natural resources and open spaces, parks and facilities, and trails and connectors. Small groups were then asked to identify new opportunities, and then to rank them by priority. These proposed future sites were placed on maps and displayed for the general public. The citizens of the County were asked to add any additional sites to the maps

The priority Locations Map is provided on the next page and the narrative results of this process will be found in the Appendix.

Priority Locations from Visioning & Goal Setting

Open House at Benton Beach Park

The open house was held June 18, 2002

Purpose:

Provide an opportunity for County residents to review the work of the advisory committees. This included identifying future opportunities for natural resources and open space, parks and facilities, and trails and connectors. The open house also provided the opportunity to address the County’s current existing parks system and development options.

Outcome:

The participants engaged in a Group Design Exercise where they each were given a schematic map of Benton Beach Park and asked to add, delete or otherwise alter the park to make it a better place to camp, recreate, swim or otherwise use. The results were outstanding. Each group had very strong feelings about how the park could be improved and recorded their suggestions on the maps provided.