CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Suggested visions for the future of the Carthage parks system got high marks Thursday from residents who gathered to hear the proposals.
The presentation, by students from Drury University’s Center for Community Studies, attracted primarily city officials and members of an advisory group that worked on the project.
Those on hand praised the recommendations and peppered students with questions about how the plans might be carried out.
The proposals were developed after the students, from the Springfield university’s School of Architecture, studied city parks and amenities, met with the local advisory group and held meetings to gather public input.
They recommended a series of proposals focused on promoting “smart growth” that would enhance the existing parks system, encourage active living and social integration, and promote Carthage’s image in areas including history and art.
Mayor Mike Harris said he especially liked that the recommendations focused on developing and enhancing current areas of the city rather than expanding to add new parks.
“That makes a lot sense,” he said.
While the recommendations did suggest some additions, such as a nature center at Kellogg Lake Park and several new neighborhood parks, the primary focus was on further developing existing parks, along with sidewalks and trails to better link them.
One new park would be adjacent to Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital for use by patients, visitors, staff and the community.
Miriam Putnam said the hospital foundation already had discussed such an idea, and she liked the idea that the space would be named McCune-Brooks Park.
“It meshes with our plans, because we want to keep the name alive,” she said.
Putnam, a member of the Dogwood Garden Club that has undertaken several park improvement projects, predicted that the group would tackle one of the proposals suggested in the “visioning” project.
“I thought it was very focused; they had a proposal for every park,” said Tom Short, city administrator.
Councilman Jason Shelfer, chairman of the advisory group, said he liked the idea of taking advantage of waterways through the city for exercise and recreation. He asked the students what might be an initial priority from the study. Most said improving city sidewalks would be their first choice because it would encourage city residents to be more active.
“Sidewalks aren’t sexy, but they are crucial,” Shelfer agreed.
“It would make Carthage more of a walking community,” said Jay Garrott, a Drury professor who worked with the students. “And, you might decide on a park restoration effort to get the community involved.”
The recommendations also called for better signs for city parks, which was already on the city’s agenda, said Alan Bull, parks director.
This is the second time Carthage has worked with Drury University on a project. The goal has been to develop ideas from which the city can select the most feasible for long-term development.
CITY ADMINISTRATOR TOM SHORT said the advisory committee will continue to meet, to discuss and prioritize the recommendations. He said he expects the panel will work with the City Council’s public services committee, which oversees the city parks system.