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Purpose of a Park Master Plan Process

Published on: 10/24/2013 11:18 AM
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one of County ParksThe purpose of a Park Master Plan is to develop a comprehensive vision for specific parkland in context with its location, natural resources, and visions of the community.

This vision will be a framework for a park's use and development over a 20 to 30 year time period.

This framework will allow County Parks to provide a variety of recreational opportunities in an environmentally sound and sensitive manner.

Outline of the Master Plan Process

1. Development of Framework for Project Input

At all stages of a Master Plan development it is critical to have public input.

  • Hold Public Meetings at all critical steps in a Plan's development
  • Establish a Task Force Committee - an advisory body which represents a wide range of community interests
  • Establish a Technical Advisory Committee - an advisory body that represents a wide range of agencies with specific areas of oversight, such as water quality, traffic, endangered species, fisheries and more.
  • Develop contacts for feedback with public agencies within the sphere of influence of the project

2. Understanding of the Environmental Context and Existing Conditions

In order to gain a full understanding of the project site, it is critical to collect as much data on the site as possible. This data will later be summarized into an Existing Conditions Summary and Suitability Map. These tools will identify areas best suited for recreational development and those areas best suited for preservation.

  • Conduct relevant background data collection from local agencies, past site investigations, deeds, similar relevant projects in the vicinity
  • Conduct extensive site inventories for key environmental indicators such as site geology, soils, plant life, animal species
  • Conduct archival and on-site research for cultural and archaeological resources located in the project area and pertinent to the site
  • Research existing area policies and trends such as zoning, land use, and traffic patterns, population, demographics, and recreational trends

3. Development of Project Goals

Under the guidance of the Task Force and input from the general public, project goals are developed that will guide decision making throughout the process.

  • Project goals are broad-based statements that embody the values of the County, the Parks Department, and the community. Typically, goals address the need to preserve historical resources, enhance natural resources, and provide appropriate levels of recreation
  • Criteria for these goals is developed from the initial public input gathered at the first public meeting and at early Task Force and Technical Advisory Committee meetings
  • Further refinements of these goals takes place at Task Force level and tested at many points throughout the process for consistency with the vision developed for the park.

4. Development of Project Program

A Project Program is based on opportunities and constraints gained from site investigation, data collection, and public input as to the potentially appropriate uses and activities to be considered in the master plan process.

  • A Proposed Project Program is developed by the Task Force and in General Public Meetings which identifies a list of potentially appropriate activities and management strategies to be considered for the Master Plan.
  • A sample of possible program items could include biking, hiking, equestrian boarding facilities, youth environmental education facilities
  • The environmental context of the park is overlaid on the proposed project program to identify where recreational opportunities are best explored at the next step in the process

5. Development of Suitability Map

A Suitability Map identifies areas of high, medium and low suitability for potential uses identified in the Proposed Program.

  • The compilation of all prior data collection, site investigation and inventories is completed. This information is summarized and a Suitability Map is prepared which identifies areas of recreational opportunities

6. Development of Project Alternatives

In many instances, Proposed Program Elements may be accommodated in a number of different ways. Different combinations of elements may provide different opportunities. It is valuable to assess the benefits and drawbacks of a number of different project alternatives.

  • Through public review of project goals, potential program elements, site inventories, and site suitability mapping, a series of up to three alternatives are developed for the project
  • A summary of potential benefits and impacts will be prepared for each alternative
  • The Parks and Recreation Commission, interested public agencies and the Technical Advisory Committee will also provide input and identify potential benefits and impacts of each alternative

7. Development of a Preferred Alternative

A Preferred Alternative may be readily identifiable or seek to combine the best of each of the three Alternatives.

  • A series of public review meetings and Task Force level discussions are conducted to review the three project alternatives, their benefits, and impacts. Upon evaluation of all input received, a preferred alternative is identified that will be the foundation for the draft park master plan

8. Development of a Preliminary Master Plan

A preliminary master plan is the sum of all previous work to date to develop a long-range vision for future parkland development that is both economically and environmentally viable.

  • The Preferred Alternative is further developed to include detailed information on activities, proposed use and management practices, financial implications, and options for phasing of identified element
  • A full identification of all potential environmental impacts is begun
  • Public and Task Force review of the Preliminary Master Plan is conducted. Refinements are based on comments received

9. Presentation of Preliminary Master Plan to the County Parks and Recreation Commission

As an advisory body to the County Board of Supervisors, the Parks and Recreation Commission reviews all proposed Master Plans for consistency with existing County policies, identified goals, program elements, and needs of the community.

  • A presentation of the Preliminary Master Plan is made to the Parks and Recreation Commission. The document is reviewed and further public comment is considered.
  • With additional refinements as necessary, the Preliminary Master Plan is endorsed by the Commission

10. Full Environmental Review of Draft Master Plan

In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a full analysis of all potential impacts to the environment as a result of the endorsed proposed master plan is conducted.

  • A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Proposed Master Plan is prepared and circulated for public comment
  • Within the mandated 45 day review period, a public meeting is conducted to explain potential impacts and, proposed mitigations to potential impacts as a result of the project
  • Oral and written public comment is taken. Written responses are prepared after the close of the 45 day review period and are included in the draft of the final EIR

11. Revisions to Draft Master Plan

  • Based on comments received during the Environmental Review period, revisions to the Proposed Master Plan may occur to reduce potential impacts, modify mitigations, or call for more stringent standards of operation
  • Should significant revisions to the draft master plan occur as a result of environmental review, a second presentation of the plan may be made to the Parks and Recreation Commission

12. Final Draft Master Plan and EIR presented to the County Board of Supervisors

  • Upon completion of all necessary revisions and refinements to the Draft Master Plan and EIR, a presentation is made to the County Board of Supervisors for final acceptance of the plan and certification of the EIR.
  • Upon acceptance and certification, the plan is adopted on implementation of Phase 1 of the Final Master Plan is initiated.

Depending on the complexity of the proposed plan, master plans routinely take 18 months to 2 years to reach final approval and begin implementation.

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