If you’re a geezer like me …. Oops! If you are a golden years resident, you probably prefer walks in the park to running post patterns.

If so, there appears to be relatively little future funding in the city’s parks and recreation planning for you. If you were hoping for a new regional park in the flood plain west of the city with a lake and paved path around it, you are probably at the back of the line.

But then, who am I to complain? I’m one of those freeloaders who deserves to be annexed for using city parks and not paying for them. An extension of the Greenway system may be the best I can hope for.

Not that this is so bad. I was spoiled from living for years about 10 minutes from an ocean boardwalk in New Jersey.

The big needs are for more neighborhood parks and organized sports facilities

Pressing need for more neighborhood parks

A consultant that the city has hired to plan for the next two decades of expected rapid growth here says Murfreesboro is ahead of the national standard in community and regional park acreage. It’s neighborhood parks where we have fallen down.

And that seems to be what young people moving here want most. According to the consultant’s research, many young urban professionals want small, neighborhood parks they can walk to.

Sports facilities now being used to capacity

A second big demand for funds is going to come from  organized sports groups. The consultant says playing fields and courts for organized sorts are  being used to capacity, and Murfreesboro is going to have to build a lot more to meet the demand. In any town I have lived in, the sports groups generally get what they want because they are so well organized. Devotees of passive recreation, on the other hand, aren’t organized at all.

Murfreesboro has 1,100 acres of city parks

The city’s parks and recreation department manages 17 parks comprising about 1,100 acres. They range from Barfield Park with its sports complex to historical parks, like Cannonsburgh Village, and special parks,. like the one-acre bark park for dogs.

Let’s get specific. The national standard for regional parks is 5 to 10 acres per 1,000 residents. Murfreesboro has 430 acres of regional parks, which is 98 acres more than the standard for a city of nearly 119,000 people. When the city’s population doubles by 2035, it will have to add about 209 acres to its regional park inventory to continue meeting the standard. Regional parks are expected to be at least 200 acres in size.

The situation is similar for community parks, which are at least 25 acres in size and serve an area of about two miles in any direction. The city has 334 acres of community parks, which is 154 acres above the standard for a city this size. It is also about 38 acres more than it will need at the expected population level for 2035.

Nine pathetic acres of neighborhood parks.

It’s in neighborhood parks that the city fall down. It has only nine acres of these parks, which range in size from one to two acres. That’s 168 acres short of what it should have now and 332 acres below the amount of neighborhood parkland that will be needed in 2035.

The situation is the same when it comes to active sports, such as baseball, football, volleyball and tennis facilities. Murfreesboro falls below the national standard by 18 outdoor basketball courts, 27 baseball/softball fields, three swimming pools and six community centers. These needs will only double and sometimes triple by 2035 when there are expected to be about 230,000 people living here.

Why aren’t housing developers contributing to parks?

A big issue will be finding the money to pay for all these neighborhood parks. It came as a shock to me that the city has no ordinance requirement for housing developers to donate land or pay in-lieu funds to buy land for neighborhood parks. This was standard when I began covering city council meetings in Calif. in 1973. It was also the procedure when I moved to Old Bridge, NJ. in 1979. I imagine it is common practice elsewhere.

The people who benefit should pick up the tab

The argument against such a law is that the cost will be passed on to homeowners, making homes just that much more expensive. On the other hand, if new residents are demanding neighborhood parks within walking distance of their homes, it seems only fair that they and not taxpayers as a whole should pay for them. The consultant suggests that such fees might include not only land acquisition costs but at least part of the price of converting the raw land to parks.

Here are some of the other proposals and suggestions the consultant makes and issues he raises:

  • West Murfreesboro has the fewest acres of parkland and the greatest need for additional parks.
  • The city should sign joint agreements with the city and county school systems to gain access to school playgrounds, football and soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and even classrooms for recreational programs. (Maybe we aren’t freeloaders after all.)
  • Murfreesboro should promote and expand its efforts to host sporting events and tournaments.
  • City planners should Identify small parcels of unimproved land in existing neighborhoods that can be converted into “pocket parks.”
  • Staff plans for future extensions of the Greenway should include trails to link communities to schools and commercial centers, giving people the option to walk instead of drive to these places. And wherever possible, the city should add open space to link up city parks.