Planner needs feedback about recreation ideas

By Julie Fann
star staff

It takes a lot of hard work to have fun. Local planner Michael Hughes knows that. He's been spending his days coming up with a recreation plan for the city of Elizabethton, and, at this late date in the fiscal year, he feels he still needs more feedback from the community. It's getting down to crunch time.
   "I just hesitate drawing something up when I haven't received enough feedback from the citizens of the city. Any organization, whether it's a church or the Chamber of Commerce, that has any ideas of what they want and need, we've got to know about it before we can build it. We're looking for some original ideas, as long as they're do-able," Hughes said.
   Hughes is preparing a rough draft of the document to reveal at next month's Planning Commission meeting, but he's still hoping more local citizens will show up then and voice their opinions and ideas. So far, Hughes and local officials have held two public meetings to give residents an opportunity to express their recreational needs. Normally, staff, who have little contact with the community, would draw up a plan, but Hughes wanted to take a different approach.
   "We've had people say they would like a community theater, and kids are interested in having a skating park in town. Our senior citizens also expressed a desire for some type of recreational facility," Hughes said.
   Other ideas Hughes and others have discussed are the possibility of a Fall Festival and a campground at Sycamore Shoals State Park. Hughes said he believes a campground would draw more people to the city during race weekends.
   "I would like to take this plan to the Chamber (of Commerce) and show it to them. I would be interested in hearing their ideas and opinions," Hughes said. Robert Reedy, Chamber President, said he wasn't aware of Hughes' plan but that he would be open to looking at it and having some discussion.
   "I guess we could get him to present his ideas to see what's going on and what we can do," Reedy said. Reedy said the Chamber doesn't have any projects it is currently working on in terms of recreation and that the Chamber also doesn't have a particular person who deals with those aspects of the city.
   "He would probably need to start with the executive committee first and then work from there," Reedy said. Reedy emphasized that, because he lives in Kingsport, he is only at the Chamber during business hours and so is not as connected to certain aspects of the community as he normally might be.
   Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains stressed that it is necessary to know that a large number of people are interested in adding certain recreational opportunities to the city. "If the city wants to put certain money into the project, then we need to make sure that a portion of the community is being served (by that project)," he said.
   Hughes said that communication among all governmental entities and the community is essential to developing a recreational plan that will benefit everyone. "If you've got amenities, and people have a good, working relationship with city officials, then it can do nothing but improve quality of life," he said.
   The next meeting of the Elizabethton Planning Commission will be held July 2.