Scotts Valley City Hall
Scotts Valley City Hall (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Scotts Valley City Council held a special joint study session with the Parks and Recreation Commission on May 1 to envision the full scope of recreation options for the city.

Recreation Manager Allison Pfefferkorn noted that there hasn’t been a new Parks Master Plan since 1996. In fact, she said, the City tried to update it in 2012, but that drive ran out of steam.

“As we all know, in 2020 the Recreation Division was closed down,” she said, adding in 2021 a new Parks Master Plan was identified as one of the key ways to get the City up-and-running again. “The purpose of the Parks Master Plan is to provide the City and staff with a usable action plan that captures the needs assessment of the community and supports a vibrant future of the City’s park system.”

In January 2023, O’Dell Engineering won the bid to produce the comprehensive document. O’Dell’s senior project manager, Karen Folsom, said it’s been a lot of fun working on this project.

“So far, we’ve had many contributors,” she said, explaining this included City officials, community members, City Manager Mali LaGoe and Baker Tilly Partners.

When it comes right down to it, Folsom said, developing a new recreation plan is about nothing less than improving the quality of life for Scotts Valley’s residents.

“During Covid, we realized how important it all is for us to be able to get outside,” she said. “There is a growing and diverse need in Scotts Valley.”

In drawing up the plan, O’Dell considered current trends in greenspace planning and attempted to leave Scotts Valley with a document that could be updated easily.

“It also looks at the big picture,” Folsom said. “We don’t narrow down to one park or one small site.”

The consultant also factored-in demographic projections. For example, the 2020 Census found Scotts Valley had 12,224 residents, with the community having grown just .5% since 2000.

O’Dell projected that the City will “continue to grow at a steady rate,” though this does seem at odds with the couple thousand homes Scotts Valley just told the State it was planning to encourage within its borders over the next several years.

Folsom also pointed to a decrease in the under-14-aged population, and an increase of people over the age of 60.

“This is just a snapshot,” she said.

Part of the exercise involved taking stock of what’s already in-place.

“We’ve been out to all the parks and done a complete inventory of site amenities, not only sports fields but all the way down to bike racks and benches,” she said, noting they evaluated the condition of each and how frequently people seem to use them. “If there’s a piece of broken playground equipment, we inventoried it.”

They also looked at how Scotts Valley stacks up against peer municipalities Capitola, Half Moon Bay and Pacific Grove.

“The recent General Plan that was adopted noted that there’s a goal of five acres of developed parks per thousand residents,” she said. “Half Moon Bay has the same goal.”

This doesn’t count Glenwood Space Open Preserve, because that’s not considered a “developed” park, she added.

Vice Mayor Derek Timm said the City has been in talks with the Scotts Valley Unified School District about potentially using school facilities for rec programs.

“That is in process,” he said, noting it’s partly a matter of figuring out who’s responsible for upkeep. “It might take a little while to iron out.”

Timm added that, while some have felt the school district has been less open to allowing groups to use its facilities post-pandemic, the discussions show SVUSD is willing to explore this idea again.

Mayor Randy Johnson said that’s an overarching theme of the plan—making recreation assets more accessible to the community.

“This is going to be a living document,” he said, noting that former Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated some funding that could’ve gone toward this sort of urban renewal. “On the one hand, you’re looking at ‘aspirational.’ What’s out there? What can we do? How can we expand? One of the real hard questions, though, is, ‘Do we want to perfect and improve on what we have—instead of going and getting, more and more and more?’… We’re not maintaining as well as we probably could.”

Strategic Priorities

Back in February, Council met for a two-day strategic planning workshop.

“It’s important that we discuss what our goals are going to be as we’re developing the budget so that we can allocate appropriate resources to your Council’s goals,” LaGoe reported during the March 20 Council meeting.

They settled on a 10-item list:

  1. Pursuing additional revenue sources to support a “thriving city.”
  2. Looking for operational enhancements to improve efficiency of day-to-day operations.
  3. Developing the Town Center.
  4. Rebuilding recreation and looking at how its programs are funded.
  5. Wastewater treatment upgrades, with a goal to complete 80% of the design work.
  6. Road improvements.
  7. Developing an Active Transportation Plan.
  8. Explore options for City offices.
  9. Boosting communication and collaboration with businesses and residents.
  10. Celebrate the community.

“We have a lot of big projects on this list, but it’s also important for us to support cultural events,” LaGoe said. “We’re working on some branding.”

Mayor Johnson said it’s an excellent list for pushing the community forward.

“This is kind of a roadmap for the City,” he said. “We’re not static. A lot of stuff happens. Much like an iceberg, I think. You don’t see all the things…. This is a necessary step in making Scotts Valley a more vibrant city.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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