Rollerblading Is Out, Trails Are Hip — Nashville Looks To Trends To Shape Future Of Parks And Rec | Nashville Public Radio

Rollerblading Is Out, Trails Are Hip — Nashville Looks To Trends To Shape Future Of Parks And Rec

Jun 13, 2016

The future of Nashville’s parks and greenway system will be outlined soon in a new 10-year vision known as “Plan To Play.” It will guide spending and try to tailor parks and recreation to the quickly growing city.

Since the 2002 master plan, about $340 million dollars has gone into Metro Parks: 

What did that give you? Quite a bit, says parks planner Tim Netsch.

“Thousands of new acres of parkland ... hundreds of thousands of square feet of new community centers and nature centers and other buildings,  hundreds of new facilities and amenities in the parks — and many, many miles of greenway trail.”

For the most part, Metro has worked through its last parks and recreation to-do list.

Now officials are trying to figure out what everyone wants for the future. So the parks department is creating an exhaustive inventory of every acre and all that it does — and begging residents for honest feedback. (Take the survey here.)

“For the new plan, we need to have a thoughtful, sustainable, equitable and financially viable strategy,” Netsch said.

Already, a phone survey discovered one perplexing thing: A lot of Nashvillians visit parks regularly (64 percent) — but far fewer take part in Parks Department fitness classes and other structured programs (see chart on parks usage).

“We’d like to know why,” says Kelley Hart with the California-based Trust for Public Land. “We learned that 88% of them think that the quality of programming is excellent or good. That’s really high. So why aren’t more people doing programming?”

Gary Hawkins, of Hawkins Partners, discussed the demographics that are driving changes at Metro Parks.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

Metro Parks also wants to understand nationwide fitness trends. For example — statistically — softball and flag football are on the decline.

And do visitors feel safe? So far, residents say they feel safer in the parks (90 percent) than on the greenways (79 percent).

The master plan is due in January. It will sort through these factors and suggest how parks money should be spent for the next decade.

For her part, Mayor Megan Barry says the master plan should connect parks with sidewalks, greenways and mass transit.

And she wants places filled with public art and programs for families, regardless of income or neighborhood.

“Communities that are home to minority or low to moderate-income families may lack a park or may have very limited access to parks, or have under-resourced parks,” Barry said. “This new master plan also has to strive for equity.”