A needed investment
As Washington officials, particularly the City Council, continue their review of the proposed parks and recreation master plan, they will ask themselves and one another this question: How is the city going to pay for implementing some of the recommendations in this plan?
That’s a question they should be asking. As they are asking that question, they should realize the city cannot afford to not meet the future park and recreation needs of city residents. The proposed plan includes a wish list of new parks, new recreational facilities and related policies to better serve the public.
That wish list carries an expensive price tag, meaning the city likely will take one or two wishes at a time to turn into reality. In other words, the city likely will use the pay-as-you-go method.
Some of the recommendations in the proposed plan probably need to be implemented and paid for as soon as possible.
The plan recommends incorporating history and tourism into what the city’s Parks and Recreation Department offers. The city should develop a strategy to increase opportunities for events and activities that can relieve some of the financial burden for ongoing maintenance and facility upgrades, the plan suggests. With those improved facilities, the city should increase the number and variety of special events and tournaments. The plan also recommends the city explore additional opportunities to capitalize on the waterfront and water recreation.
That makes sense. Many people come to Washington to take in its historic character. Many people come to Washington because of its waterfront. People who come to visit a facility such as the North Carolina Estuarium may not be aware the city has a top-notch sports complex in the Susiegray McConnell Sports Complex. People who come to a softball tournament at the sports complex may not be aware of the Estuarium. Finding ways to get those people to visit both facilities likely would pay off for the city. Someone in the city for a softball tournament one weekend may return to the city the next weekend to visit the Estuarium and vice versa.
One unmet need included in the plan should be addressed as soon as possible. The Parks and Recreation Department sought funds to meet that need, but those funds were not approved. They should be.
The Parks and Recreation Department wanted a floating dock for the city’s new rescue boat, with that floating dock including a fabricated roof and lattice enclosure with two gates. Having the rescue boat at the waterfront would mean that boat could respond to waterborne emergencies faster than it can now. The boat is kept at the fire station, which means it must be taken to a boat ramp so it can be launched.
By having the boat at the waterfront, a city dock attendant could have the boat ready to go by the time rescue personnel arrived at the waterfront.
The City Council should make that happen. With more and more boaters coming to Washington’s waterfront, the chances of emergencies on the water increase. Perhaps grant funding or a donation can be found to make it happen.
Yes, the city has many things to do and has little money with which to do them. Its parks and recreation needs can’t and won’t be met at one time.
But for the health of the city and its residents, some of its parks and recreation needs must be addressed, both the short-term needs and the long-term needs. If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, then having inadequate parks and recreational facilities could make Washington a dull place.
That just can’t happen.