A community workshop for the Open Space Master Plan was held July 15th. Over 80 citizens attended, as well as several city and county elected officials. The meeting was intended to provide updated information about the ongoing master plan effort, and to get input from participants on potential types and locations of future open space amenities throughout the county.

The workshop included a presentation from our team, followed by dot voting exercises and comments from attendees, and then closed with some follow-up discussion and Q&A. A copy of the slide presentation used can be found here. Steve Hammond from WRT reviewed what we’ve heard so far from the community survey, meetings and interviews. He then discussed the process our team has been using to consolidate information from various plans and data sources, and reviewed the analysis tasks we’ve completed to determine existing areas with access to parks and trails, green infrastructure opportunities for storm water management, and potential corridors for off-street trails of various types. This technical analysis will be cross-referenced with community input and conversations with the cities and property owners to determine what goes into the final plan.

One of the takeaways from the community survey was that a lot of people don’t know where the existing parks, trails and public open spaces in the county are located. We have some great open space assets in the county already, so we want to include a master map of these facilities in the Plan that the county and cities can reference on their websites in the future. The current draft (updated as of July 30) of this map can be seen here . I want to take this opportunity to note that collecting and updating information on existing and future parks, trails and open space in each of the cities is an ongoing process. The level of detail, type of information and currency of the plans varies widely from city to city, and there are always conversations happening within each city relative to zoning cases, proposed development, etc. We appreciate all of you who have provided comments to us, and we will continue to do our best to keep the maps as current as we can.

The next part of the workshop focused on some of the opportunities that are emerging from our analysis work. I started with an example of an existing open space system that connects a variety of open space amenities in Plano, Richardson, Garland and Rowlett with a series of 12’, multi-use trails. I did this to illustrate how other areas are coordinating open space amenities between cities and within a watershed, similar to what this plan is looking to do in Rockwall County. For county-wide trail connections, we’ve identified riparian (floodplain), utility and transportation corridors that could be used. When you combine these all together, we have a fairly robust network criss-crossing the county that we can work with to provide different types of trails that access and connect existing and future destinations.

The majority of the large open space amenity opportunities are in the central and eastern part of the county. The sites we included on the opportunity map  are ones that are in ideal locations due to their proximity to some combination of existing floodplain, NRCS lakes, tree canopy and vegetation, wildlife and topography. We also referenced each of the cities’ master plans and showed sites that are included as future community or regional park sites.

After the presentation, we asked attendees to participate in a series of voting exercises. The exercises involved prioritizing different Potential Trail Connection Segments and then providing information on preferences for the type and use of the trails, followed by asking attendees to prioritize locations and preferred types/uses for future open space amenity sites. Results of the voting exercises and list of comments can be found in this Summary.

The corridors we presented for voting were ones that survey participants, stakeholders and/or committee members expressed interest in. This input will help our team refine potential corridors and trail types for connections between the different cities and destinations.

Our team is now in the process of taking all of the input we’ve received, and putting together some refined opportunity maps for open space sites and trail corridors. These sites will be discussed with the Open Space Alliance Executive Committee, citizen steering committee, cities and property owners over the coming weeks. Another round of revisions will then be made and a draft plan document will be prepared for review and comment in the next few months.

Kevin Shepherd is a Rockwall resident and co-founder of VERDUNITY, the consulting firm leading the Open Space Planning effort. He can be reached via email at kevin@verdunity.com.