As the Denison Parks and Recreation Department prepares to invest $80,000 in park upgrades this year, city officials are already setting their eyes to 2018 and beyond. Last month, city officials held a series of meetings with citizens to determine what upgrades residents want to see and which parks should see improvements in coming years.

“The purpose was to get citizen ideas on any future park implementation ideas the city may have,” Community Engagement Director Sunny Mackey said.

In April, city officials announced plans to collect public input on future improvements as Denison entered the fifth year of its 10-year parks plan, which was implemented in 2013. Due to its size and higher use, a separate plan was implemented for Waterloo Lake Regional Park.

As time passed, unforeseen developments freed up funds that could be used elsewhere for other improvements, City Manager Jud Rex said in April. The biggest project that was not foreseen in 2013 is the development of the $17 million, 80-acre Texoma Health Foundation Park, located across from Spur 503 on U.S. Highway 75.

As an example, Rex said the Katy Practice Fields, located on Crawford, would no longer need to be maintained to game readiness due to the new fields at THF Park. The city also plans to no longer do upkeep on the playing fields at the Raynal School, freeing up additional funds.

When asked about funding for improvements, Mackey, who previously served as Denison Parks and Recreation director, said it was difficult to estimate future funds as these improvements will be financed through an optional, $2 fee that appears on the monthly water bill. However, in the past the fund has provided about $114,000 annually for parks projects and improvements.

To gather feedback, officials held three public input meetings at Martin Luther King Park, Ray Park and the Denison SNAP Center throughout the month of June. Mackey said the final meeting, held on June 20 in MLK Park drew the largest crowd, with about 10 residents attending.

“I was pleased with the response,” Mackey said. “We had some residents that were really invested in their parks and motivated.”

Through the meetings, Mackey said, Denison received comments on a dozen city parks, with ideas ranging from additional playground equipment and walking trails to more lighting and roadway improvements. Of the parks, Munson Park received the most residential feedback, Mackey said.

“It is a very large park and there is room for expansion, and a lot of things can be put there,” she said.

Munson was followed closely by Jones Park and MLK Park for the number of suggestions. Jones Park was the first of the city parks to be improved in the 2013 parks plan. MLK Park, along with George Hopkins Park and Munson Park, is slated for improvements this year.

Mackey said the suggestions will now be taken forward to the city’s parks board, who will draft a list of proposed projects that will be taken before the city council. Mackey said she hoped to have a list of projects for 2018 completed by the end of the year.