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Akron seeks input to improve community centers, recreation programming

August 1, 2018

Akron seeks input to improve community centers, recreation programming

AKRON, Ohio - Akron’s parks are overdue for improvement, so the city wants residents to help shape a new vision for the Akron Recreation Bureau.

The city will ask residents what they know about recreational amenities and what their interests and needs are, as part of efforts to develop a strategic plan for “radically improving” community centers and recreation programming.

Residents can take the bureau’s five- to seven-minute survey here through Sept. 7. Responses are anonymous.

Mayor Dan Horrigan announced the initiative in his 2018 state of the city address, saying he views public spaces and recreation as catalysts for neighborhood development. The mayor recalled the work of former Akron Mayor John Ballard in 1969. During a time of civil unrest, Ballard declared adequate public space and recreation an essential city service.

“While we are proud to offer the Akron community a robust array of recreation services, we have not critically evaluated or changed the way we provide services or the types of programming we offer in at least a generation,” Horrigan said in a news release. “The goal of this strategic planning process is to modernize our services, increase the use of our community centers, enhance public engagement in recreation programming, and better meet community needs by asking our citizens what they want and need from their city government.”

The survey questions focus on what should be added or improved as well as  general thoughts about the Recreation Bureau. The city also wants ideas on attracting new park users, at what level people participate and how much they value existing offerings.

To guide the planning process and apply the data gathered through the survey, the city hired Rick Adler and Associates, which has worked with the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. The planning process is expected to be complete by the end of the year, when the city will report back its findings and future plans.

“To create a new vision, we first have to fully understand the existing state of city recreation — what the community knows, what they enjoy, and how they feel we can better serve them,” Recreation Bureau Manager Brittany Schmoekel said in the release. “We encourage all those who live in Akron or use our services to add their voice to this important community conversation by taking our online survey.”

In April, the city announced development of the Akron Parks Collaborative, a partnership between the city and Friends of the Metro Parks. The collaborative, modeled after successful groups in New York City and Philadelphia, is to engage the community in “friends groups” near each Akron park to help keep them clean and inviting.

At that time, the city released the Department of Planning and Urban Development’s comprehensive study of Akron’s parks system available here. The study encompasses 161 Akron parks, including Summit Metro Parks, which cover 3,804 acres.

According to the city, Akron offers twice the national average of parkland – more than 19 acres per 1,000 residents.

The Akron Recreation Bureau offers services and programming for residents of all ages, and manages 11 Akron community centers and the Balch Street fitness center. For more information about the Akron Recreation Bureau, visit the city’s website.

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