The Economic Development Pulse First Quarter 2016 - Page 5

Quality of Life

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Q1. The National Arbor Day foundation, a program designated to help cities with forestry management, has recognized Odessa as “Tree City USA” for the past 20 years. How has Parks and Rec. maintained this recognition in semiarid West Texas?

Patton: As I started researching the variety of trees in Odessa, I recognized that there was predominately one species of trees covering the entire parks system (Siberian Elm). With the infestation of the Dutch Elm disease slowly compromising the future tree coverage in the parks system, I knew it was very important to implement a Forestry Program to differ the pallet of tree selections that would ensure the longevity of the tree coverage in the park's system. Maintaining a tree installation program along with good maintenance practice programs that continue to meet or surpass the requirements for the Tree City USA recognition ensures that the City receives this designation.

The success rate of tree and plant survival is due to the growing operations that we have at the Parks Department facilities. We have approximately 3,000 trees in the Parks Department tree farm, many of which are grown from seeds or small cuttings. Growing the plant material from a small plant or seedling ensures that the plant is acclimated to the soils, water and dryness of the area. Additionally, there is a significant cost savings associated with such production rather than purchasing plant material that is shipped to the area.

Q2. When selecting new equipment for parks, how do you incorporate creativity in choosing outdoor recreational facilities?

Patton: When selecting new playground equipment for a park site, many factors are considered, but the top three include, longevity, degree of maintenance, and participant capacity/ accommodation. The contemporary design of many of the new playground equipment pieces addresses these criteria very well. For example, the new playground equipment recently installed at Murry Fly Park located at Dumont Street and Boulder Avenue has a strong steel support structure with heavy powder coating, and provides a vast array of recreational activities for the participants. The equipment also exposes little plastic features to prevent vandalism such as carving or spray painting.

This particular playground had not been renovated for nearly 40 years, as I played there when I was a child. Thanks to the Odessa Parks Foundation and the Utility Bill Dollar Donation Program, the equipment was provided and installed by the Odessa Parks Foundation. The Program was implemented in July 2007 and has provided the funding now for new playgrounds at eight (8) park sites with no costs to the citizens of Odessa. The goal of the Odessa Parks Foundation is to have a new playground at every existing park site.

Q3. Public meetings, stakeholder interviews and 1,395 online surveys were conducted with public input for a new master plan to last the next five years. What are the top three recommendations in the 2014 master plan?

Patton: The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan was adopted in April of 2014 with the recommended prioritized list of improvements including:

1. Adopt a Parkland Dedication Ordinance

2. Adopt a Landscape Ordinance

3. Repurpose Southside Baseball Park, renovate

Salinas Park and renovate the Fire Station at Lawndale Park into a Community Building

We have not accomplished items #1 and #2. However, we are currently working on renovation projects at Salinas Park, and also revamping the Fire Station at Lawndale Park into a community building.

Q4. Starbright Village, a holiday themed display in McKinney Park with over 270,000 lights, attracts thousands of tourists every year. What has been the greatest achievement of the display over the years, and how can other organizations learn from this once small, now ever-growing project?

Patton: Starbright Village had over 100,000 visitors this past holiday season, which was the largest crowd ever. A great deal of the success of Starbright Village is due to maintaining the philosophy of the Parks and Recreation Department in that we want to provide family oriented, affordable/ free, high quality events. Our business plan includes adding something new each year so that there is continuous growth and a new attraction for the community. The location, planning and growth support makes Starbright Village a destination event for people all over the Permian Basin, Southeastern New Mexico and many travelers along I-20 that stop and take a look.

Q5. Parks and Rec. is partially funded by the hotel-motel tax. What effect will the oil downturn have on hotel and motel taxes, and do you have changes in your standard action plan for 2016?

Patton: If there is a downturn in the funding of Hotel-Motel funds due to the downturn in oil, we will have a back-up plan to best utilize the funds that are available. I do think that it is important that we consider a paradigm shift in the mechanisms that attract visitors to Odessa. Recently the oil businesses have kept the Hotels/ Motels full with high occupancy rates. I think that it is important to utilize our high quality recreational facilities to recruit and host tournaments at the Baseball Fields, Softball Fields, Soccer Fields and Golf Course, so that we can continue bringing new visitors' dollars to Odessa- especially during a downturn in the local economy.

It is my personal Goal to "Make a Positive Difference" in Odessa, and the Parks and Recreation staff is doing it!