With little input, Orange County parks makes major plans for next decade – Orange County Register

In case you don’t know it — and you wouldn’t be alone — for the past half-year OC Parks has been conducting surveys, holding workshops, facilitating focus groups to determine the future of our outdoors.

For a public agency with an annual budget of $159.5 million, the possibilities for its next decade strategic plan are exciting. But there are buts.

The last major undertaking for a 10-year strategic plan was 2007. For the new one, OC Parks already is preparing to analyze the “public’s input,” develop priorities and present the new strategic plan to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Opportunities for more parkland, better facilities, “responsiveness to changing Orange County demographics” is wonderful. But OC Parks’ methodology of getting that “public input” is worrisome.

A review of the survey shows that a whopping 37 percent of respondents were either advocacy groups, elected officials or county staff.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Joe Bernhardt, vice president of OC Wheelmen — and a regular volunteer with OC Parks. He acknowledged it’s possible he missed something in his blizzard of emails, but noted, “I haven’t seen anything.”

Consider that our parks are so jammed with hikers and mountain bikers competing for space that there are frequent arguments. A new cast on my right ankle is just one testimony to the numerous injuries on busy Saturdays.

Yet the survey would have you think that mountain biking in county parks is insignificant.

The survey states 77 percent of respondents walk or run, 63 percent hike or run and a measly 15 percent mountain bike.

It reports that 16 percent of park visitors are Latino and 11 percent are Asian. Never mind, those statistics fail to mirror county demographics. They fail to recognize the diversity of people who love our parks.

I got empty air when I asked OC Parks for specifics on the survey statement that it contacted “partner organizations, OC community-based organizations, and others.”

The only organizations OC Parks named for me were arguably partners: “Friends of Harbors Beaches and Parks, Newport Bay Conservancy, Laguna Canyon Foundation, Caspers Park Foundation and SHARE Mountain Bike Club.”

There were no additional “community based organizations.” There were no “others.”

Here is how the tax-funded agency connected to its larger public: “in an email blast to all county employees asking them to share (the survey) with their friends, family members,…

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