Oakland officials want to upgrade the park and are turning to the community for inspiration.
The town of Oakland held a community input meeting for the Speer Park Master Plan Thursday, Sept. 5, and a few dozen residents showed up at Oakland Meeting Hall to share their opinions on future plans for the town park.
Town Manager Steve Koontz, who led the meeting, said there are some great opportunities with the park now that extra funds are available. Parks and recreation impact fees that were going to be used for the new art and heritage center have been redesignated after the West Orange Healthcare District donated $1 million toward the facility, now under construction near Town Hall.
Grace G. Harrison and Matti Rukholm, registered landscape architects with CPWG Engineering, facilitated the discussion. Harrison gave an overview of the park’s current amenities — which include a gazebo; picnic areas; playground; grill; skate track; and tennis, basketball and shuffleboard courts — and presented a list of potential new park elements.
The park is considered a neighborhood park, so the main focus will be on amenities that draw Oakland residents and not the population at large on a daily basis. It still will be used for community festivals that typically also bring in residents from the surrounding communities.
Koontz said the playground equipment is 17 years old and it’s difficult to find repair parts. The plan is to replace it with another playground set.
He added that regular park maintenance also will be addressed.
“Speer Park is a beautifully canopied 5-acre neighborhood park,” Koontz said. “The commission has made it a priority to make enhancements to the park, and the first step is getting input from the community. Once we have a plan for the park, staff will work on leveraging impact fee funding with grants and partnerships and hopefully begin phasing in improvements in 2020.”
Residents gave suggestions and voiced their opinions of many of the potential options, which included natural versus colorful playground equipment, separate playing areas for toddlers and older children, a picnic pavilion, restrooms, more lighting, a perimeter sidewalk, pump track, fitness equipment and a pickleball court.
Many were not in favor of adding restrooms to the park; Koontz noted that facilities will be available in January once construction on the West Orange Healthcare District Arts & Heritage Center at Oakland is completed. The center is a block south of the park.
All suggestions were written on large sheets of paper that then were attached to the wall. Following the discussion, those in attendance were given small stickers to place on the amenities they most want to see at Speer Park.
Overwhelmingly, residents want the park to maintain a natural look, which would include a natural wood playground. Other popular suggestions were an obstacle course playground; bounceback wall; tennis and pickleball courts; and a sidewalk around the park.
“The town of Oakland would like to make improvements to Speer Park that are appropriate for a neighborhood park,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “We had great participation in the resident feedback meeting, and I look forward to our next discussion based on this input at our Oct. 22 meeting.”
Residents who still want to provide ideas can print public input forms or pick them up at Town Hall. Forms must be returned to Town Hall or emailed to [email protected] by Friday, Oct. 18.
Folks will have another opportunity to provide input during a Town Commission workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Speer Park is named for Oakland’s founder, Judge James Gamble Speer.