PACE — Genesis consulting firm released a conceptual master site plan for Benny Russell Park at a Sept. 17, presentation. The information came from resident input at a community involvement workshop held May 8, at the Pace Community Center and a web-based survey.

Genesis specializes in park planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering and they are developing the master plan for the park. Additional resident input, gathered from web-based surveys asked participants to identify preferred park facilities, desired amenities, and reveal any issues or concerns that influence the park planning and design process the firm posted on their website. According to Genesis, the survey proved useful with 466 responses and 100 percent completion rates.

Here, in order of priority, are the top seven amenities respondents asked for:

Interactive water/play zones
YMCA recreation center
Walking trails
Multi-purpose field
Expand pedestrian connectivity
Additional family pavilions
Additional picnic pavilions

Residents still have time to provide input for the project. This link,, will take visitors to the Genesis Benny Russell Memorial Park page. The entire survey and renderings are available for detailed review and visitors can leave comments about the master plan for the next week.

"It's actually hard to get the public's input before a meeting like this," District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker said. "I always encourage public input. It allows me to be a better representative to the people of my district."

Commissioner Parker said he did not see any surprises in the survey. When asked about the YMCA recreational center, he said the YMCA has completed a market research study and the results were favorable.

"I expect in the near future a public/private partnership between the YMCA and Santa Rosa County," Parker said.

Parker also said that the local area sales tax has provided funding for many projects that would not have been possible without it. He has been a proponent of raising that tax another half-cent but no commissioner has officially proposed it. With that increase, Parker said, the county could fund major projects like four-laning Woodbine Road and making the seven-point priority list above "absolutely possible."

"This is an exciting time for our great community," Parker said in a press release. "I am hoping many community members will provide input on how we can continue improving this terrific park to better meet the recreational needs of our county's residents."

According to Michael W. Schmidt, P.E., Assistant County Engineer the next steps are for Genesis to give a detailed conceptional opinion of the final cost and to present that to the BOCC. The commissioners would then decide how to proceed from there.