Parks Master Plan

On May 17, 2022, the City of Santa Ana’s adopted its first Parks Master Plan! The Parks Master Plan is a long-range plan that will guide our investment in parks, park facilities, trails, and open space for the next ten years.

Background

Parks Master Plan Cover ImageThe Parks Master Plan (PMP) was developed through an 18-month process that combined broad resident and stakeholder engagement with a data-driven technical analysis to identify community needs. City staff, key stakeholders, and city leaders together formed a Park Advisory Group to guide the four-phased planning process. Along with that, more than 2,000 residents, six commissions, 24 partner or stakeholder organizations, participants at 16 pop-up activities, and internal staff shared their insights and comments to help develop the PMP.

The City of Santa Ana also recently updated its General Plan, including the Open Space Element, in a process that included extensive outreach and an environmental justice element to define the community’s vision, values, and goals for the future. The PMP engagement process built upon General Plan findings to identify specific community priorities for parks, recreation, and trails. These priorities guide our park investment strategy.

The PMP defines the community’s values for parks and recreation. It shows how parks and recreation are integral to achieving the City’s five core values. Given the critical role parks, recreation facilities, trails, and programs play in supporting our quality of life, a new mission statement defines the City’s commitment to parks and recreation:

“We steward our parks, offer engaging recreation opportunities, and connect our diverse community through trails and programs to create a vibrant, livable city.”

The PMP identifies eight key initiatives for the park and recreation system, along with polices and implementation strategies that will guide the provision of parks, recreation, and related services over the next ten years.


Key initiatives

1. Parkland

Acquire and develop parks to create an integrated park and open space system.

2. Equity, access, and environmental justice

Ensure that all residents in Santa Ana have equitable access to inclusive parks and healthy recreation opportunities that serve all ages, abilities, and unserved or underserved areas in the City.

3. Trail connectivity

Create a walkable, bike-able, and interconnected city by providing a network of off-street bicycle and pedestrian trials.

4. Recreation diversity

Create unique and vibrant recreation facilities that reflect the character, identity, and needs of Santa Ana’s diverse community.

5. Activity

Facilitate events, programs, sports, and indoor recreation activities to support community health, fitness, empowerment, development, and lifelong learning.

6. Stewardship

Manage and maintain Santa Ana’s parks and recreation assets through good stewardship, proactive asset management, and the wise use of resources to support a sustainable, resilient, safe, and comfortable park system.

7. Collaboration

Engage residents, partners, volunteers, local businesses, and other agencies in enhancing parks and recreation opportunities.

8. Investment

Diversify funding, generate revenues, and support the capital and operational investment needed to enhance the park and recreation system.


10-year recommendations

Santa Ana is anticipated to grow to a population of 362,591 over the next 10 years. In addition to adding parks to meet the needs of new growth, the community is demanding a significant increase in parkland to support improved park access for all. The recently adopted General Plan sets a long-range goal to provide three acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents in the future. As a 10-year investment strategy and action plan, the PMP provides detailed guidance and priorities to take the first step: increasing the City’s parkland to 1.5 acres per 1,000 residents. This acquisition strategy includes acquiring many smaller Neighborhood Parks and Pocket Parks, as well as acquiring or expanding existing Community Parks and Citywide Parks. If feasible, the greatest acreage would stem from acquiring the Willowick Golf Course and converting it to a multiuse Citywide Park. While focusing on new acquisitions, the PMP also recommends a variety of improvements and enhancements to existing sites.


Cost and investment strategy

If park acquisition requires purchasing new parkland at market rates, the total cost for all park acquisition, development, enhancements, and improvements could be $679 million. Adding new land and facilities could increase park maintenance costs to $5.2 million annually. These costs do not include the maintenance and development of trail corridors, which are identified in conjunction with transportation planning. It does not include costs associated with increased park activation, programming, administration, and operations.  To implement these recommendations, the PMP identifies potential funding sources, prioritization tools, and a 12-step action plan for the next 10 years.


Action plan

1. Prioritize maintenance and asset management.

2. Increase park impact fees for new development.

3. Redirect other funds to parks.

4. Explore voter-approved tax measures and other public and private support.

5. Create a park opportunity fund.

6. Pursue key land acquisition opportunities.

7. Develop the Golden Loop and Key trail corridors.

8. Evaluate additional park acquisition opportunities.

9. Explore other acquisition mechanisms as an alternative to direct purchase.

10. Update joint-use agreements with the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD).

11. Evaluate the return on investment before proceeding with major facility development.

12. Extend cost recovery recommendations to new programs and services.


The PMP is a community-driven document, created because of the significant community interest in enhancing Santa Ana’s park and recreation system. While the level of service recommended in this plan is not as high as some residents would like to see, a substantial investment will be necessary to provide 1.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, plus the quality facilities, trails, programs, events, and services desired. To achieve this vision, elected officials, voters, businesses, community organizations, volunteers, donors, and residents will have to work together to make continuous progress in enhancing parks and recreation opportunities. This will be an important investment in Santa Ana’s quality of life.

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