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Salisbury Parks and Rec plan focuses on options for aging population

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The city’s new Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which focuses on the next 10 years for the department, was passed Tuesday night.

Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves; Brad Chamber, of the Kelly Group; and Beth Poovey talked through the 200-page document, which outlines the requests from community and action items.

“You want to make sure things change,” Poovey said. “Communities change. You want to make sure your departments and what you’re offering is meeting the needs of your community.”

With many action items suggested, Councilman David Post asked presenters to prioritize three to five. Poovey and Chambers agreed on investing in greenways by connecting existing trails, leveraging the soon-to-be opened Bell Tower Green park, creating a multipurpose center and keeping up with the high-quality events the department hosts.

The multipurpose center, in particular, should provide opportunities for Salisbury’s aging population, presenters said.

Chamber said passive parks, not active parks, or senior centers should be a focus, and added that there is a stereotype surrounding today’s senior citizens.

“Rather than sit around and play cards and knit, seniors want to hike,” he said. “They want to get out and play and be active to do the things they were doing 20 or 30 years ago. That is a big national trend.”

In their presentation, Chamber and Poovey presented a graphic  showing nearly a quarter of Salisbury’s population is older than 60 and that a plurality of Salisbury residents — 30.21% are between the ages of 35 and 59. The latest available data from the U.S. Census shows the city’s average age is 38, the same as the state.

Post, as a liaison to the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center,  said the senior center was struggling to keep up with its current demand.

“They are busting at the seams,”  Post said. “They see the growth. They know they need more space. They are toying with something in the southern part of the county as well of the city.”

Mayor Karen Alexander recommended finding ways to parter with the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA.

Aceves said the city park’s department is increasing programs at Halls Gym and Miller Recreation Center for seniors but running out of room.

In another recommendation, Chamber said the city should concentrate on open spaces with free play opportunities and not necessarily parks with playgrounds.

The city has 15 acres per residents of parkland. The National Recreation and Park Association has a requirement of 9.8 acres. The figure includes Salisbury Community Park, which is not in in the city limits and makes up a large portion of that total

Poovey said she would consider Salisbury Community Park as a regional park. It should be added in the acreage due to the access to the park for city residents, but the plan also recommended giving Salisbury Community Park to county government. 

Poovey said Salisbury should focus on neighborhood and community parks.

Based on input from stakeholders and community members, there was a desire for a nature center for outdoor education, which Chamber said was a surprise.  Alexander recommended the city work with Catawba College’s Center for the Environment on that project.

The master plan also stated a lack of awareness about the Parks and Recreation Department’s offerings and named marketing as a goal.

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