Low turnout for Parks Open House meeting

Published 8:16 am Tuesday, May 21, 2019

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Approximately 50 residents attended the Orange County Parks Improvement Planning Project Open House meetings held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center.

Landscape Architect with National Parks Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program Patsy McEntee explained to those in attendance the need for public input on what the community sees as priorities for the Claiborne West Park, Bluebird Fish Camp, Gould Walking Park, and Bailey’s Fish Camp.

“We have been to all the sights over the last two days,” McEntee said. “We understand the vision is to open the entire park [Claiborne West] in the future. They are all gems and just need some tender loving care.”

With boards and maps set up for post-it notes and stickers for the public to give direction to such items such as preferred material for a trail to what the residents considered priorities at each location.

“Once we have gathered all the information, we will map out and document the input and make recommendations for priorities,” McEntee said.

One resident expressed concern for drainage issues.

“It will not be any good if drainage is not addressed,” the woman said. “It is a great opportunity to showcase our area, with the beautiful wildlife and trees.”

Although the meeting had people there to explain the planning process, including several of our County Commissioners, the real part consisted of numerous image blowups of park areas and features with space for people to take post-it notes and write their comments on them. Notes about how those specific areas are used, suggestions for improvements or even changes in use, etc.,” David Derosier said. “Let’s hope between two meetings like this they will get lots of input and we can get our parks back up to high standards and high use.”

County Commissioner Pct 1 Johnny Trahan said he spoke with McEntee before the tour of the parks and said she would see three or four ecosystems along the way.

“Not many counties have three ecosystems, which is part of what makes us unique here in Orange County,” Trahan said.

Commissioner Pct 3 John Gothia said the program is a great help.

“The key to having her here is to help with a plan which can be signed off on and use for an endorsement for grant money,” Gothia said. “They can also absorb the cost of creating cost estimates, so we know how much grant money to go after.”

One resident is concerned.

“I am glad to see the County moving forward with plans for a new master plan, but am concerned that Commissioners Court won’t be able to funnel human resources behind it to get funding to implement new plans in a reasonable length of time.  The facilities in Claiborne West Park were installed under the first “Master Plan” created for the Orange County Parks Board by Frank Suggitt and the utilities support that Master Plan,” Dale Parish said. “I heard a comment tonight that “that Master Plan is outdated…” but that infrastructure is there—the roads, the underground utilities, most of the trails were all constructed under Suggitt’s Master Plan, and it makes little sense to redesign that which has worked for forty years.”

 “What I think we need is a body of planners to study the current use and projected future needs of recreation in Orange County and to develop a maintenance and funding schedule under which we can move towards the identified objectives,” Parish continued. “Commissioners Court can’t do it—that’s been proven.  We need the Commissioners Court to delegate those details to a body of interested citizens who can focus on the maintenance and improvement of the Parks System.“

When a community asks for assistance with a project through an application process, National Park Service staff provides free, on-location facilitation and planning expertise. It draws from project experiences across the country and adapts best practices to a community’s specific needs.

The staff help:

  • Define project vision and goals
  • Inventory and map community resources
  • Identify and analyze key issues and opportunities
  • Engage collaborative partners and stakeholders
  • Design community outreach and participation strategies
  • Develop concept plans for trails, parks, and natural areas
  • Set priorities and build consensus
  • Identify funding sources
  • Develop a sustainable organizational framework to support the project


A short online survey Orange County residents can fill out to provide info about park improvements can be found HERE

One can also follow the Claiborne West Facebook page and the County website for updates.