Wellington Rec Board Looks At Master Plan, Greenbriar Park

Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes and Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett review the proposed master plan.

Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board met Monday, March 4 and discussed the village’s proposed Parks & Recreation Master Plan and got an update regarding the future of Greenbriar Park.

After years of knowing there is a need for more long-term planning, the Wellington Village Council recently approved consulting firm AECOM to put together a Parks & Recreation Master Plan.

“This process will take anywhere from 8 to 12 months,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett explained. “It is very extensive. They look at everything from staff to land to facilities to resources that we have. They give us a comprehensive plan of where we are at now and where we will hopefully be in the future. We can always be better. They’ll give us a year out, five years out and 10 years out of what we can do with the department.”

After AECOM completes gathering data and crunching the numbers, they will conduct a full presentation for the advisory board.

“It’s something that we’ve really wanted to get completed for a while now,” Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said. “It’s a good benchmark to see how we compare to other agencies our size. While we will probably compare favorably, it is always good to have a basis for comparison.”

No comprehensive evaluation or master plan existed for Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Department in the past. Since the department is now in pursuit of renewing its accreditation through the national Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA), having such a plan is a requirement under the current standards and can no longer be delayed.

“We’ve had bits and pieces, with some facility master planning related to neighborhood parks right when the village incorporated,” Barnes said. “We’ve had some programming and staff assessment completed over the years, but there has not been a comprehensive one that looked at staffing, facilities, programming all together at the same time, while comparing us to other agencies.”

A full community needs assessment is coming along with the new master plan. Feedback directly from the community will be gathered by several methods over the next few months. The study will take a broad look at the needs of Wellington’s citizens and not one specific site, such as the current discussion over the future of the Town Center area.

“There will be a mailed survey, an online survey, multiple night meetings where they invite the community to come, as well as focus groups,” Juckett said. “We are going to have a kickoff meeting March 18.”

Additional information and meeting times will be announced as soon as the schedule is finalized.

Another significant update involves the future of Greenbriar Park, located near the Wellington Dog Park. The current green space has also served as a debris collection site during post-hurricane recovery efforts, which allows the village to work more efficiently when clearing roads and providing for other needs after a storm.

Last year, the plan for Greenbriar Park was to use it for additional multi-purpose sports fields.

“We were close to wrapping up the preliminary conceptual design but are continuing to look at opportunities to best use the resources we have,” Barnes said.

Recently, village staff came up with a new idea, which gained tentative support from the Wellington Village Council last month. “Instead of using the Greenbriar site, we will preserve that site as it is and look at locating the facilities at Wellington High School,” Barnes explained.

Initial discussions with the Palm Beach County School District were favorable, and now the department is evaluating and drafting language for an interlocal agreement to make the high school grounds a multi-use facility. Preliminary plans involve utilizing existing space near the school instead of starting fresh at Greenbriar Park. Successful interlocal agreements are already in place with Emerald Cove Middle School and others.

“Dealing with an existing site offsets some costs. For example, we don’t need to run utilities,” Barnes said. “Unless you are doing a lesser quality field, the difference in price is narrow. We are preserving an area of green space that the school may need for expansion, relocating tennis courts, putting basketball courts up by the entrance and a separate driveway, which still has to be reviewed. We are looking at whether parking can double as a parent drop-off to better facilitate drop-off for the school. Risk management and transportation have a lot to say, so there is a lot of discussion that has to happen.”

The board supported the continued exploration into working with Wellington High School and saw the idea as a potential win for all.

Juckett also provided information on additional upcoming events. For large events, guests are encouraged to utilize the free shuttle service running from the Mall at Wellington Green to and from the festivities.

The “Marchtoberfest” Pop-up Biergarten is at Town Center from Thursday, March 7 through Saturday, March 9. It is a free, non-ticketed event. Visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/marchtoberfest for more info.

Also upcoming is the return of the Bacon & Bourbon Fest on Friday, March 22 from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, March 23 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Wellington Amphitheater. Also a free, non-ticketed event, those interested can learn more at www.baconbourbonfest.com.