An expanded community center, added park space and the financial backing to make it all happen can be found in a long-term plan for Nixa’s park system.

The city of Nixa hired a consulting group to craft a master plan for growth of Nixa’s parks and its recreation programs.

Consultant Jay Wohlschlaeger of SWT Design presented the highlights of the parks master plan to the Nixa City Council on July 13. The plan lays out priorities and a vision for Nixa Parks and Recreation, the city’s parks department arm, to grow in terms of the facilities it maintains and the programming it offers.

Wohlschlaeger stressed the long-term nature of the plan.

“A master plan like this is a 10-year, 20-year vision. It’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow,” Wohlschlaeger said.

Over a span of about nine months, consultants conducted a survey, held meetings with Nixa stakeholders, performed an assessment of the Nixa community and its potential as a market for recreation and looked at some statistical benchmarks for facilities and services in communities that compare to Nixa’s population size and demographics.

It made for a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis.

The consultant recommended that Nixa could speed up the process of funding parks and public works projects through a 1/2-cent parks and stormwater sales tax. Such a tax would require voter approval. The Nixa City Council has not taken any action to ask voters to install a new sales tax at this time.

About 78 percent of 787 survey respondents were willing or “somewhat willing” to vote for a sales tax increase for parks.

Wohlschlaeger and the other consultants examined the balance between a park system running revenue-generating programs to fund itself, and subsidizing its programs with other funding sources, such as sales tax revenue. Revenue-generating programs in Nixa include membership fees at the X Center, entry fees for sports programs and the daily fees to swim at the aquatic center pool.

Currently about Nixa Parks recovers about 85 percent of its operating costs through program fees.

“The business plan that the parks department operates under is very solid,” Wohlschlaeger said.

He added that an array of popular sports and programs leads to more participation, which can create more revenue.

“The more people that participate in it, the more value there is for the community as a whole,” Wohlschlaeger said.

Popular programs with more participation can generally be done with lower costs for each participant, whereas more specialized recreation programs with fewer participants tend to require more cost recovery from each person taking part.

The master plan contains drawings and renderings for park expansion or improvement at McCauley Park, Rotary Park, the Gardens at Woodfield and the under-development Eoff Family Century Farm Park off of State Route AA.

“It’s a big idea made up of smaller ideas, almost like an a la carte menu,” Wohlschlaeger said.

Nixa’s X Center could be expanded to add more fieldhouse style space, which would add playing courts, an expanded fitness area and more indoor features. The plan also contains some options for expanding the aquatic center to include a splash pad that could be open in the spring and fall seasons. The plan also calls for an expanded and inclusive “destination playground” on the McCauley Park property, where the X Center is located off of North Street.

There would be amenity additions at parks like playgrounds, shelters, multi-use playing fields, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, skate park features and a second disc golf course.

The plan also calls for parks to be added to Nixa’s inventory. Specifically, the consultants call for 10-acre neighborhood parks to be placed in the northwest and southwest quadrants of Nixa (using the intersection of U.S. Highway 160 and Missouri Highway 14 as the axis intersection), and a park about the size of McCauley Park somewhere in the southwestern portion of the city.

“There is a broad range at what that number could be as far as the acreage of parks,” Wohlschlaeger said.

Wohlschlaeger said that Nixa could develop a trail system within its parks, and also develop a trail system that connects its parks together. Some trail planning has already been done through Nixa’s involvement with the Ozarks Transportation Organization (OTO).

“A lot of what is in this recommendation section came out of the work that has been done by the community and the OTO in developing the Nixa are plan several years ago,” Wohlschlaeger said. “That became a real foundation for this, but we wanted to put some numbers to what it would mean for Nixa based on what we heard.”

It’s not as simple as drawing lines on a map. Topography and accessibility are key factors in designing trail systems.

“The big idea is to really delve into the existing parks and provide a complete trail, loop trails, connectivity and accessible trails from parking to amenities throughout the park,” Wohlschlaeger said.

The master plan also contains information on improving access to recreation by improving sidewalks leading to parks, effectively linking multiple parks together.

The parks master plan will be used as a guiding document for Nixa Parks and Recreation to operate from as it moves forward. You can view highlights from the presentation at http://nixaparks.com under the “Master Plan” section at the bottom of the home page.

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