Politics & Government

Consultant: Warner Robins recreation fixes to take time, money

WARNER ROBINS -- Decades of neglect to the city’s parks can’t be reversed without a lot of time and money, though some improvements could come quickly, a consultant and Mayor Randy Toms said Thursday night.

“We’re 20 years behind in our recreation. I can’t fix that in a year,” Toms said to about 30 people at a public meeting to orient recreation planners to the community’s needs.

The consultant, Whit Alexander of Lose & Associates, said some of the city’s recreation needs will take years to address. It probably also will take money from the next special purpose local option sales tax,

“It may take 10 years to build out all these parks, because it’s going to be a lot of money to get there,” Alexander said.

But Alexander said the plan would make recommendations for some “low-hanging fruit,” such as maintenance on dangerous or damaged equipment. He said the overall plan should balance out the needs of the city by neighborhoods, such as replacing old playground equipment with a walking trail if the population there has aged and if other nearby parks also have playgrounds.

Some of the questions asked in the hourlong meeting at the Wellston Center centered on ensuring there are appropriate facilities for children, teens and seniors.

Shirlyn Johnson-Granville said children would most benefit from a learning center, a sports complex, and health and wellness offerings.

Donna Hopes suggested that more basketball courts and perhaps facilities for skateboarding could provide good opportunities for youth and keep them out of trouble. She also suggested that abandoned homes be torn down in older neighborhoods, with little parks built in their place.

Alexander said he looked at the city’s parks Thursday.

“There is a need out there. Just realize these parks are well worn,” he said.

Alexander’s firm will inspect the parks in more detail, probably next week, he said. That and other work will lead to an online survey in about a month that asks what people want to see in the parks. Draft plans will be presented to the public and city leaders.

The city has proposed building a big recreation complex near the intersection of North Houston and Elberta roads that could be built with SPLOST money. Recreation Director James Dodson also has proposed a massive expansion for Memorial Park, located near Robins Air Force Base.

Several new smaller parks also have been proposed.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.