Greensboro Plan2Play Parks and Recreation Master Plan 2019

Plan2Play is Greensboro Parks and Recreation's new system-wide Master Plan. Plan2Play will provide a framework for the use and development of the City park system for the next 20 years.

Greensboro Plan2Play

Parks and Recreation Master Plan 2019 FINAL PLAN

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CONSULTING TEAM Agency Landscape and Planning Gina Ford Brie Hensold Rhiannon Sinclair Eamonn Hutton Revington Reaves Landscape and Planning

GREENSBORO CITY COUNCIL Mayor Nancy Vaughan Yvonne Johnson - Mayor Pro Tem Marikay Abuzuaiter - At Large Michelle Kennedy - At Large Sharon Hightower - District 1 Goldie Wells - District 2 Justin Outling - District 3 Nancy Hoffmann - District 4 Tammi Thurm - District 5,

Justin Washington, Chair Kelly Gaines, Vice-Chair Marsha Glazman Kim Alexander-Henderson Bob Kollar Blake Odum Jeff Smith

Anna Reaves Mark Reaves ETM Associates, LLC Tim Marshall Desiree Liu Sports Facilities Advisory Dan Morton Richard Stiftinger

CITY OF GREENSBORO PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT Ednasha McCray, Director Phillip Fleischmann, Deputy Director Shawna Tillery, Planning and Project Development Division Manager Ron McMillan, Park Operation Division Manager Charles Jackson, Community Recreation Services Manager

CITY OF GREENSBORO David Parrish, City Manager

Chris Wilson, Assistant City Manager Barbara Harris, Assistant City Manager Steve Drew, Assistant City Manager (Interim)

ETC Institute Jason Morado NCSU Mickey Fearn

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Table of Contents

7 LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR 9 INTRODUCTION 11 PLAN2PLAY PROCESS 19 GREENSBORO TODAY 21 Setting the Scene 27 Economic Drivers 31 Ecology 35 A Changing Population 39 State of the System 41 Parks, Trails, and Open Space 48 Non-Profit Partnerships 49 Community Survey 55

79 82


Enhance Expand Connect

108 134 160 170 172 174

A Plan for Action


A Plan Participants

B Park Classification C Community Engagement Memorandum D Greensboro Recreation/Demand Analysis Memorandum E Greensboro Operations and Maintenance Plan

Amenities and Facilities Needs Assessment Recreation and Sports Programs, Trends, and Gaps Maintenance and Operations Benchmarking

62 70 73

Access and Equity

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Figure 1. Families cooling off at Keeley Park's well-loved sprayground.


Letter FromThe Director

Greensboro Parks and Recreation provides professional and diverse leisure opportunities through inclusive programs, facilities, parks, and open spaces. That is our mission, but it only scratches the surface of what we offer to the city. Parks and Recreation spaces represent cultural and creative hubs; places that make us healthier, happier, and more vibrant; social gathering spaces that connect us to our natural environment and to each other; valuable economic and tourism assets; and opportunities to better lives, which in turn, creates a better community. We make Greensboro a desirable place to work, live, and play. With much excitement, I introduce you to Plan2Play , the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department’s 20-year comprehensive master plan! This plan analyzes where we are currently and where we envision our parks and open spaces to be in the next 20 years. It lays out how we will “enhance, expand, and connect” the

department to keep pace with the growth and development in our city. The recommendations within Plan2Play prioritizes how, over the next 20 years, we maintain and improve existing parks and facilities, invest and plan for future parks and facilities, expand programs, and allocate funding and other resources to meet current and future community needs and expectations. Most importantly, the recommendations reflect the values and expectations of more than 7,000 Greensboro residents and park users who provided input about our park and recreation system and translate those into action items that ensure we are effectively and efficiently investing our resources. I would like to thank every Greensboro resident, stakeholder, and park and facility user who participated in the Plan2Play process and for your insight to help us shape the future of Greensboro’s park system. We appreciate the support and

dedication shown by our City Council, our Parks and Recreation Commission, our many community partners, and our residents who utilize our parks, gardens, lakes, trails, facilities and programs every day. With your continued support and under the guidance from this plan, Greensboro Parks and Recreation will be well-positioned to continue to provide high- quality programs, well-maintained facilities, transformative experiences, and a great quality of life for all for Greensboro.

- Ednasha McCray, Director

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Lake Townsend

Lake Brandt

Bryan Park

Lake Higgins


Battleground Parks District




Keeley Park

PTI Airport





Neighborhood Park

Barber Park


Community Park

Gillespie Golf Course

Regional Park


Special Site

Waterway County/Federal Park & Drainageways Council Districts City Limits

Hester Park


Figure 2. Map of Department assets today illustrating location of Greensboro's 134 parks. N





The City of Greensboro has an impressive parks and recreation system that contributes significantly to the overall health, quality of life, and economic vitality of both residents and the city as a whole. The City of Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department (the Department) currently oversees over 8,500 acres of parks, trails and greenways, lakes and reservoirs, public gardens, and facilities that provide a myriad of recreational and enrichment opportunities. The Greensboro Plan2Play Parks and Recreation Master Plan (Plan2Play) is the comprehensive parks and recreation master plan intended to guide the planning and development of the parks and recreation system within the city over the

next twenty years (2018-2038). It builds on the Departmental vision which states “We see ourselves as leaders, building better lives to build a better community.” Plan2Play comes at a critical time for the city. The last comprehensive master plan was completed in 1998, with a 2005 update. During this time, the city has seen many changes with regards to demographics, growth, recreational trends, and funding. These changes have created an ideal moment to re-imagine what parks and recreation could be in Greensboro. The plan also builds off momentum established by the 2015 Bicycle, Pedestrian, Trails, & Greenway Plan Update ( BiPed Plan ), individual park plans such as the Battleground Parks District Master

Plan , and the city’s parallel process for the Connections 2025 Comprehensive Plan . Plan recommendations are framed around three themes: Enhance, Expand and Connect . These ideas establish a framework for reinvesting in the city’s legacy of parks and recreation facilities, while strategically expanding the Department’s reach to new areas of need and programming.

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Project schedule, milestones and community engagement methods Plan2Play Process

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Figure 3. Residents providing feedback on Plan2Play's "big ideas" at Community Conversation 3, which took place at the July Parks and Recreation Fest held at Gillespie Golf Course.


Plan2Play Process

The development of Plan2Play was an 11-month process, beginning in late 2017 and concluding in the fall of 2018. The planning process was framed largely around significant engagement efforts to ensure the desires of the community and Department staff were accurately reflected in the plan’s recommendations. Plan development was also shepherded by a Master Plan Leadership Committee within the Department that included key staff from Planning and Project Management (PPD), Parks Operations Division (POD), and Community Recreation Services (CRS), and City Communications.

Phase III Draft Plan: The third phase of the process included establishing a vision, principles, goals and objectives, as well as, an implementation strategy. A parks operations and management review was also conducted.

The Plan2Play process was structured around four phases: Phase I Analysis: The first phase encompassed the discovery and understanding of Greensboro’s unique recreation and parks system, its organization, and its provision of programs. It included an overall parks and trails inventory, in depth study of historical and ecological systems, a needs assessment, and community survey. Phase II Vision & Concepts: Guiding principles, system-wide concepts, and a comprehensive vision were developed during this portion of the project and tested through public and staff review and comment.

Phase IV Final Master Plan: The final stage of the project included

documentation, review, and approvals. This phase resulted in this document, the 2018 Greensboro Plan2Play Parks and Recreation Master Plan .

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Figure 4. The February Community Conversation event at the Greensboro Cultural Center allowed for residents to provide feedback at interactive stations.

Figure 5. Comments collected during pop-up-events held throughout the City helped establish facilities and parks that residents felt were well cared for, and those that were in need of upgrades.


Community Engagement Process Plan2Play is the result of a robust community engagement process. Beginning in January of 2018 engagement spanned a seven-month period, concluding in July with the unveiling of the top nine Master Plan concepts at Greensboro’s well- attended Parks and Rec Fest. Overall the team touched approximately 7,000 individuals in-person, on-line, and through hard-copy mailers. The result of a partnership between the Department's staff and the consultant team, a variety of engagement activities were designed to elicit feedback from a wide variety of individuals ranging from frequent park users to residents with little knowledge or experience of park and recreation offerings. This was achieved by a multi-pronged strategy that crossed communication platforms, scales, neighborhoods, and communities. Engagement activities were designed to meet resident both in

their space and time, as well as, at more structured plan specific public forums. IN PERSON: In person engagement consisted of three city-wide community conversations, 17 community focused pop-up events, six rotating participation poll boards in selected libraries and recreation centers, and 11 focus groups. At all venues residents and City staff were asked to participate using a toolkit of interactive games and comment boards that allowed for both open-ended and targeted feedback. Pop-up events were particularly successful tools for engaging with the public. These activities were staged at community or city-wide events, such as LeBauer Park Spartan Cinema night or Groovin in the Gardens at Gateway Gardens. This format, which capitalized on energy and participation of existing events, allowed the team to broaden in-person interaction well beyond the reach of the typical public meeting. ON-LINE: On-line engagement took the form of short monthly surveys, a project website featuring various presentations at key points in the process, and social media

posts and comment threads. Each of the four months presented a different theme as a tool to gather public input. These monthly themes included Facilities, Programs, Amenities, and Vision. MAIL: A statistically valid paper survey was mailed to 2,500 residents across the City of Greensboro. This tool provided an important data set that represented a user group with similar demographic characteristics to the city as a whole and offered a balanced citizen perspective from all five Council Districts. A total of 300 surveys were returned. This amount of returned surveys ensure, with a 95%

confidence level, that the results accurately reflected Greensboro’s diverse demographics.

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Table 1 - Outreach Strategies and Outcomes

Total # of participants

Outreach Strategy Description

Total # of Events

Focus Groups

Focus groups consisted of 1 hour listening session with up to 15 participants per group. These were conducted in the early phases of the Plan2Play process. Groups were structured around similar interests such as arts and culture, community partners, or operations & maintenance. Community Conversations (CC) were held at key points in the Plan2Play process. These were publicized across the city in multiple formats and drew a city- wide audience. The first two CC were stand-alone events. The final CC was held in conjunction with Greensboro’s Parks & Rec Fest and brought up to 400 visitors. Pop-up events were conducted by both Parks and Recreation Staff and the consultant teams. These consisted of a Parks & Recreation tent and interactive engagement tools. All pop-ups took place at existing events across the city such as movies, festivals, or music events. Participation poll boards were placed in 1 library and 1 recreation center within each of the 5 Council Districts. Participation was coordinated by on-site staff. The boards rotated out monthly for 4 months and focused on the following themes: 1) facilities 2) programs 3)amenities and 4) vision. A paper survey was mailed to 2,500 total residents across the City of Greensboro. Four short on-line surveys were advertised primarily though social media and the project webpage and were distributed monthly for 4 months. The first three surveys were primarily multiple choice. The final survey allowed residents to provide open- ended responses. The surveys also followed the themes: 1) facilities 2)programs 3) amenities and 4) vision. Social media posts on Greensboro’s Parks & Recreation Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts allowed citizens to stay informed of Plan2Play news and events. These posts were also used to elicit participation in the online survey. Comment threads were logged and provided a broad range of feedback.



Community Conversation


500+ participants

Pop-up Events


800+ responses

Participation Polls

6 monthly surveys posted in 20 locations

2,225+ responses

Statistically Valid Survey


300 responses (95% confidence)

On-line Survey

4 monthly surveys

3000 responses

Social Media Comments




Community Engagement Results Across all forums, the community engagement process elicited a rich tapestry of ideas ranging from small scale suggestions such as “I want wall climbing and lego building at my park” to larger unifying concepts like “I hope to see greenways completed and connected around the city.” While it is important to not lose the richness of individual comments, it was also clear that dominant themes emerged across the various platforms. Common themes, listed below, played an integral part in shaping the big ideas embedded within the master plan. We want access to fun, interactive, and cool water play! Access to spraygrounds, indoor pools, and outdoor pools emerged as a major • community priority early in the process, and remained a top request throughout the 7-months of plan engagement. We love our trails and greenways and want more miles and more connections across parks and city destinations. •

• Make kids playgrounds more interactive, interesting, and creative. Many of these suggestions came directly from kids at pop-up events where they were given the tools to let their voices be heard. From frogs, to swings, to fruit themed stepping stones they illustrated a strong desire to add unique creative elements to traditional play structures. • Please provide more senior centers and programming for older adults throughout the city. Interest in parks and recreation facilities and programs tailored for older adults aligns with the city’s changing population. • Provide more programming around environmental education, as well as, arts and culture. Residents continually noted their love of activated parks, and requested more richness in program and event offerings ranging from guided trail walks, to more food, more movies, more dance, and more festivals. Provide clearer marketing and messaging . Make it easier for me to learn what the Department offers and how I can get involved. Residents •

continually expressed a desire for clarity, consistency, and one-stop shopping for the Department's communications, program guides, and maps. Fix what we have. From individual suggestions to add a bench at specific parks, to improving overall signage at trails, to updating major tennis facilities, requests to improve and build on what we already have consistently emerged as a priority throughout the engagement process. We love our gardens and Country Park. The four gardens and Country Park, which offers one of the longest and diverse trail system of any other park in the city, were repeatedly noted as assets within the system. • Dog parks, fields for pick-up games, pickleball courts, midnight basketball, an indoor inclusive play facility, shade structures, wifi and charging stations all ranked high as either overall community or special interest group desires. • •

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The city in context Greensboro Today

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2018 Greensboro Pop: 287,027

1980 Greensboro Pop: 155,642

1930 Greensboro Pop: 53,389


City limit in 1930

City limit in 1980

Figure 6. Map of city annexation and population change over time. N

City limit today


Setting the Scene

Greensboro’s parks and recreation system is a product of the interplay of cultural, economic, and ecological histories. Unlike many towns that were sited in relationship to unique natural features such as rivers or bays, Greensboro was quite literally placed in the center of the County, thus earning the town its nickname, the “Center City.” As the town grew from its initial 14 block radius, development was nestled within the Piedmont’s rolling hills. Early parks were often located along less desirable lowland creek corridors. Fisher Park, Greensboro's oldest park founded in 1901, is a prime example of a linear park following a creek corridor. As Greensboro grew, primarily through annexation during the 20th Century, a patchwork of diverse communities was knitted together to form a dynamic urban center.

This pattern of growth created a quilt of communities founded with differing economic and cultural goals. For the most part the parks and open spaces that remained, while integral to community life and commonly sited along stream corridors, were the result of many different decision makers versus a overarching master plan. Plan2Play builds on Greensboro’s rich cultural, economic, and ecological legacy of diverse communities, while also attempting to offer a bold vision for the future. It offers a framework for the Department to leverage their existing physical and programming strengths to create a system that celebrates history, attracts new economic investment, and offers a healthier environment for people, plants, and animals.

Figure 7. Historic map of Greensboro.

Figure 8. Historic image of Battleground Park.

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Figure 9. Residents identify their aspirations for the Plan2Play plan during 2018 Groovin the Garden event at Gateway Gardens.


A Quilt of Communities Founded as the geographic center of Guilford County in 1808, Greensboro was originally comprised of only 42 acres and 14 city blocks with limited access to public park space. As the city grew, it both annexed into its boundaries and attracted a variety of manufacturing, educational, and religious based communities. The annexation of villages and towns like Cone Mill Villages, the Town of Guilford College, Historic Warnersville, and Hamilton Lakes have contributed to the cultural heritage and urban fabric of the city by providing the first spaces for public gathering and leisure activities. As Greensboro expanded it became part of a growing railroad network and earned the nickname, “Gate City.” By the mid-1800s the textile, insurance, and transportation industries were the foundations of a thriving regional economy. Education also flourished in the late 1800s. The majority of the City's seven higher education institutions were founded between 1837 to 1891.

Other historical contributors to economic prosperity in the city include Blue Bell, which manufactured buttoned overalls, and Burlington Mills, a diversified textile and fabric maker. In 1943, a U.S. Air Force Overseas Replacement Depot moved to Greensboro, creating thousands of jobs and contributing to a population spike of almost 170% within the same decade. During the Civil Rights Movement, Greensboro was at the epicenter of the 1960 sit-in protests which occurred downtown at the Woolworth’s counter. These protests gained national attention as part of the broader Civil Rights Movement and further defined Greensboro’s cultural and social legacy. Annexations continued into the early parts of the twenty first century. From 2000 to 2016, Greensboro annexed 25 square miles of land into the city limits, an expansion of 22.9% in total land area. Going forward, growth for Greensboro will likely not occur through land annexation, and certainly not at this pace. Recent state laws (2011) have made it difficult to annex additional land into city limits. As a result, Greensboro’s

boundaries will most likely remain fixed; but the city’s population will continue to increase yielding greater density, infill, and reinvestment. From a modest town of 53,390 residents in 1930 to a booming metropolis of almost 287,030 people in 2018, Greensboro’s humble beginnings have evolved into a quilt of diverse communities and industries.

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Figure 10. Historic park image of Sunset Hills Park illustrates Greensboro's history of "greens on the stream."

Figure 11. Latham Skate Park, opened in May of 2017, is just one example of recent reinvestments in Greensboro's parks.


History of Parks Early Greensboro public life centered around school and church activities. The city lacked the dedicated, public green spaces that were designed in fellow North Carolina cities, like Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Instead, parks like Fisher Park were dedicated as green space retroactively in the early 1900s from ‘leftover’ parcels that were too steep for development or flooded. For example, Fisher Park features a linear green along a small creek surrounded by winding roads and homes on both sides. This park type became a precedent for the city’s recurring investment in open spaces within floodplains and creeks. Greensboro’s park system was championed by early city leaders. An advocate for linear open spaces along Greensboro’s many creeks was J. Van Lindley and his son Paul C. Lindley. Lindley was a successful pomologist (a botanist with a focus in fruit cultivation) and nurseryman who donated 60 acres for a recreation complex in 1902. The area is now called Lindley Park. His son, Paul C. Lindley later advocated for the inclusion of hundreds of acres into a connected linear park system paralleling North Buffalo Creek. His vision, which

can be seen today at Latham, Lindley, and Lake Daniel parks, was never fully realized due to his untimely death in a drowning accident and the later Wendover Avenue road expansion which bifurcated the green. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (aka Battleground Parks District), is another significant park in Greensboro. Efforts to preserve the battlefield began in 1887 and by 1917 the battlefield was designated a National Military Park. The adjacent Country Park was constructed in 1934 with funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Over the past ten years, the city has reinvested in its park infrastructure, drawing on public-private partnerships. Importantly, it successfully completed a $34.5 bond referendum in November 2016 that has allowed for needed updates, upgrades, and new facilities, parks and trails. Improved existing facilities across the city system include: • Spraygrounds at Barber Park (May 2010) and Keeley Park (April 2012) • Shade sails at pools & parks (2016- 2018)

• Blue Heron (2009-2011) & Kingfisher Trail (2012, second phase 2018) • Latham Skate Park (May 2017) and Glenwood Skate Spot (January 2017) • Inclusive Kayak Launch at Lake Higgins (June 2018) • J. Spencer Love Tennis 13 clay court tennis renovation project (April 2017) • Barber Park Event Center and Ruth Wicker Tribute to Women (January 2019)

• Master plans for various sites

Within city limits, investment by partners has provided:

• Guilford County National Military Park

• LeBauer Park (August 2016)

• City Center Park (December 2006)

• Cornerstone Parks and Downtown Greenway (Phases 1b1/1b2 – January 2018, Phase 1c – December 2018 (Grand Opening, Jan 2019), Phase 2e/3a - November 2017, Phase 3b - November 2014) • Bicentennial Greenway (Original section opened 1989, additional sections ongoing)

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“Quality of life is the key factor that a lot of people look for when they consider whether to move to a place.”


Figure 12. Barber Park's sprayground is a popular and well loved City asset.


Economic Drivers

Recent Economic Success

Greensboro’s parks are a vital element of its quality of life and economic development. In addition to all the ways Greensboro’s demographics and communities are changing, its economy is growing and rapidly shifting from manufacturing towards diversified service- oriented industries. Technology sectors are evolving faster than ever and bringing a very different, and typically younger, workforce. Newer generations place a high value on quality of life amenities, including access to open space and recreation. Industry shifts and economic growth are giving way to more jobs and residents relocating to the city. The majority of Greensboro’s population growth over the last decade has been in the north and west areas of the city and in neighborhoods surrounding the downtown. The majority of Greensboro’s jobs are in Downtown and along I-40 close to the airport.

population through major infrastructure projects like the Greensboro Urban Loop, part of a North Carolina Department of Transportation plan to improve traffic flow around and into the city. The loop allows traffic to move quickly around the city and includes I-40, I-85, Business and U.S. Routes 29, 70, 220 and 421. The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2020. Once the Urban Loop is completed, increased vehicular traffic and population density along the Urban Loop will increase the demand for high quality recreation offerings across the city.

Economic shifts are causing Greensboro to plan progressively and take on a responsive and collaborative approach to governing. Greensboro is ready to embrace these changes in the wake of recent successes in public health and city services. T he City of Greensboro Comprehensive Plan Data Book (2018) shows the health and wellness of teens is improving, and the overall crime rate has decreased since 2000. City incentives have spurred impressive private investment, and Greensboro has had enormous success reducing its solid waste production. As the city attracts more industries, the number of daytime workers will grow and seek more opportunities to be outdoors during lunch breaks or after work. The city has also invested in its growing

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Essential Services for Areas of High Need Not all changes in Greensboro’s economy have been positive. Even with 19.5% growth in jobs since 2000, there has been significant displacement in manufacturing. Since 2000, manufacturing lost over 4,000 jobs, while the service industry gained around 22,000 jobs. Even with the gain in service industry employment, Greensboro did not keep pace with other top ten North Carolina cities. Greensboro also continues to have a higher poverty rate than the state and the nation. There are many reasons for growth in jobs but lags in personal wealth. Median earnings in Greensboro have increased, but not at the pace of other North Carolina cities and in 2015, the city’s costs for housing and transportation were higher than the national average and higher than many of the top ten cities in North Carolina. The Department’s provision of essential services to all community members is particularly important as part of an equitable city.

The Benefits of Parks and Open Spaces A strong recreation and park system is an investment that generates numerous economic benefits. Studies have shown that parks have the ability to increase property value, catalyze development, and promote tourism, while also serving as direct revenue generators themselves. Recent investments in Greensboro’s urban open spaces including Gateway Gardens, the Downtown Greenway, and LeBauer Park have contributed to major investments across the city including street scape and mobility improvements, night- time programming and residential and commercial development close to the city center. According to the Trust for Public Land, great parks can raise neighboring property values by an estimated 15%, which also increases city property tax revenue. The study, titled Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System , also noted that parks and new trail connections can

Figure 14. Declan's Playground is an upgraded inclusive play- ground adjacent to the Greensboro Arboretum.


Measuring Impacts The Department is one of many across the country facing funding challenges requiring them to “do more with less.” At the same time, the economic benefits of parks and recreation services are becoming more known and measurable. The National Recreation and Parks Association created a report called the Economic Impact of Local Parks which estimated that (in 2015): • Combined, America’s local public park and recreation agencies created more than $154 billion in economic activity. • Operations and capital spending supported more than 1.1 million jobs. • In North Carolina, this contribution is estimated to be $2,768,897,361 in economic impact and 24,303 jobs.

Figure 13. Environmental education activity, led by Michael Romano at the Kiwanis Nature PlayYard in Ole Asheboro.

encourage development by providing a strong framework for private investment across a system. Parks and recreation facilities can also serve as destinations for visitors and direct revenues from tourism, can contribute funding for specific facility or park fees and services, and through indirect retail spending. Other ways to generate direct revenues for parks include lease payments from concessions, venue rentals, parking and permit fees. Ongoing investments in parks and open spaces also contribute to a strong quality of life for residents, a factor that is equally important to companies seeking to relocate. According to a May 2018 report from the National Recreation and Parks

Association, though not the highest priority for companies identifying a new home base or satellite office, investments in public spaces and the public realm contribute to a ‘community’s “curb appeal”’ and impress site selectors who often visit cities multiple times throughout the selection process and look for positive change that support their own potential future investments.

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Lake Townsend

Lake Brandt

Bryan Park

Lake Higgins

Battleground Parks District

Keeley Park

PTI Airport

North Buffalo Creek


Barber Park

Gillespie Golf Course

South Buffalo Creek


Hester Park

City-owned Park

County/Federal Park


Figure 15. Map of parks, trails, and waterways. N

City Limits


“High population growth puts pressure on our environment. We need clean air to breath, clean drinking water, reliable food sources, and green spaces for play and relaxation.”


contains a variety of habitat types which are home to a variety of native wildlife species. These habitat types include dry coniferous woodlands, oak forests, floodplain forest, reservoirs, riverine aquatic communities, and small wetlands. As Greensboro grew and developed, the characteristic rolling hills of the Piedmont framed a growth pattern that focused development on the uplands and left the undevelopable lowlands and creeks largely preserved. The results of this trend are a series of fragmented upland habitats that are loosely connected along undeveloped creek corridors. Greensboro’s natural ecology has been challenged by development encroachment in the uplands, a lack of continuous habitat zones, and ideal habitats for invasive species growth. Despite these challenges, existing habitat patches and creek corridors support a strong diversity of migratory and resident plants and animals.

The Piedmont ecoregion includes 42 million acres of land that extends from south-central Maryland to east-central Alabama and connects portions of 6 states (Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, & Maryland). Greensboro lies firmly within the Piedmont ecoregion. The ecology of Greensboro is shaped largely by the gentle topography of the area. A network of rolling hills, or foothills, and lowlands containing small creeks played a dominant role in shaping the native ecology and development patterns. Small creeks course through all neighborhoods of Greensboro – flowing through neighborhoods, parks and densely developed areas. These small creeks, which are the headwaters of the Cape Fear River basin, eventually merge and feed larger tributaries like North Buffalo and South Buffalo Creek. Within this system of upland woodlots and lowland creek corridors, Greensboro


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The city is home to 273 documented species of birds and a number of higher order predators such as otter, mink, and fox. These wildlife species regularly use the preserved corridors to forage, safely travel and create new generations of animals. The creek corridors also have become the sites of many of Greensboro’s parks. This close relationship between the city’s parks and the creeks offers a unique opportunity to enhance Greensboro’s urban ecology through on-site water quality efforts such as stream restoration, habitat connectivity, and environmental education opportunities for the public. Expanded collaboration with Water Resources to limit mowing within riparian buffers and restore stream

channels will improve the water quality of these vital corridors, enhance habitats for native plant and animal species and reduce stormwater run-off and erosion into water bodies. Often, no-mow areas are initially seen by the public as areas that were neglected during regular mowing rounds. Continued public education about the ecological benefits of no-mow areas in parks is a critical component of this effort that should continue to occur.

Figure 16. Stream restoration, pictured here at Ben- bow Park in the winter of 2018, is an important part of ecological health.


Figure 17. Healthy environments create space for wildlife like this painted turtle at Lake Higgins.

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Lake Townsend

Lake Brandt

Bryan Park

Lake Higgins



Battleground Parks District


PTI Airport

Keeley Park






Barber Park

Gillespie Golf Course




Hester Park

Growing Population (2010 - 2016)

High Need

1/4 Mile Access

Medium Need

1/2 Mile Access

Figure 18. Population growth from 2010 to 2016 and zones with high park need and access to park spaces. N

Low Need

1 Mile Access


A Changing Population

Continuing Growth Greensboro is located in Guilford County. As the third largest city in North Carolina, Greensboro is home to 287,019 residents (2016 population). The community is growing in size and, like the country as a whole, increasing in average age. At the same time, family sizes are getting smaller and over 50% of Greensboro residents are now renters. With these shifts, a unique opportunity exists to improve and align this plan with the future community who will use and depend on the city’s parks and recreation resources. Since 2000, Greensboro has added 63,000 new residents, a growth rate that out-paces national and state trends. This growth is expected to continue and by 2038, Greensboro’s population is expected to grow by another 45,000 people. Still, it should be noted that Greensboro’s population growth rate has

been significantly lower than the rate of the other top ten cities in North Carolina and is projected to remain among the lower growth rates in the state over the next 20 years. For the purposes of this plan, the city’s growth assumption is based on recent Guilford County population projections from the North Carolina Office of State Budget Management (NC OSBM). NC OSBM projections show Guilford County will grow by 15.9%, or 80,000 people, from 2015 to 2037.

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An Aging and Diverse Community Today, approximately 20% of Greensboro’s population is 60 years or older. Greensboro’s population is also projected to trend older in the coming decade – between 2010 and 2016, persons 65 years of age and older grew by 7%. At the same time, the millennial generation currently makes up 8.1% of the population and is likely to increase over the next 20 years. Today, these patterns can be traced geographically, as well. For example, areas near Downtown and Greensboro’s many universities are generally younger due to high student populations. The city’s suburban areas, notably the neighborhoods to the northwest, are older. The January 2017 NRPA magazine states that, across the country, the older population is increasing annually, with 69% of working Americans retiring before the age of 65. This is especially true to North Carolina, as the NC Leadership Symposium State of the State shows that North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation in total population, ninth in the nation in population ages 60 and over, and tenth in

the nation in population ages 85 and over. Furthermore, the report states that by the year 2019 there is estimated to be more people 60 and over than under 28 years of age. Additionally, by the year 2025 one in five North Carolinians will be 65 or over. The senior population is diverse and very interested in health and wellness components for recreation. Research conducted by the National Council of Aging (NCOA) in 2015 also shows that older adults who participate in senior centers learn to manage and delay the start of chronic diseases while also exhibiting improvement in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, and economic well-being. Greensboro is also becoming increasingly diverse – in 2016, just over half of the city’s residents identified as one or more racial categories other than white, reflecting a 6.9% increase since 2000. The Hispanic or Latino population percentage in Greensboro is 7.8%, which has also grown by 3.2% since 2000.


Figure 19. Collaborative senior programs such as quilting at Smith Senior Center play an important role for Greensboro's aging population.

Greensboro may grow by almost 45,000 people by 2038.


This will create a need for nearly 400 more acres of park land.


260,000 CITY POPULATION 2015

Figure 20. Greensboro population trends and projections.





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State of the System

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Figure 22. A waterfall at the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden celebrates Greensboro's natural beauty.

Figure 21. Tanger Family Bridge at Bicentennial Garden.


Parks, Trails and

Open Space Greensboro’s parks, recreation and open space system must be tailored to the community’s unique needs and provided to all residents equitably. To do this, we need to first understand what is provided today by the Department and who has access to it. Next, we need to understand and hear from the community about what their needs are. Finally, we can identify the gaps that exist today between what exists and what is needed, as well as look ahead to future community changes and shifting trends.

Table 2 - By the Numbers

A needs assessment was conducted as part of Plan2Play to evaluate the Department’s assets and services in contrast to identified community needs. The needs assessment used the Department’s 2017 inventory as a baseline, and updated it with recent changes. The assessment identifies existing and projected gaps in service and determines land, facility, and service priorities. There are many ways to evaluate recreation and park offerings in Greensboro. The system’s performance was compared to aspirations and existing metrics using national data on other systems and averages from the NRPA. A deeper peer comparison to eight similar cities and systems was also conducted (see Table 4).

Acres of City-Owned Parks


Number of City-Owned Parks


Number of Facilities or Centers


Miles of City-Owned Trails


Miles of City-Owned Blueways (Aquatic Paddle Sport Trails) Acres of Stream Buffer Land (Drainageways) Acres of Park Space per 1,000 Residents




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Multi-faceted System Today, the Department operates a diverse system of trails, parks, programs, and recreational centers. Overall, Greensboro’s parks and open spaces total 2,937 acres. The city’s 134 parks range in size and function for the city, from Claudette Burroughs-White Pocket Park at just over a tenth of an acre to Bryan Park, the largest park in the system at 798 acres. The Department maintains 98 miles of greenway trails (excluding private trails). Thirty fives of those miles are paved greenways with surfaces that support wheelchairs, bikes, strollers, and pedestrians. Over time, the Department has taken on ownership of many stream buffers, totaling 2,411 acres. These buffers are not activated as park space today; hence, they are not included in the needs analysis below. Still, they offer significant acreage along ecological corridors for potential future expansion of the system. The Department has committed to creating parks that are proximate to all community members. As a result, 110 of Greensboro’s 134 parks are neighborhood-serving parks. In addition, the Department maintains

Figure 23. Eighty percent of Greensboro’s 134 parks are neighborhood-serving parks.

five large parks greater than 20 acres, two large outdoor sports venues (Carolyn Allen and Bryan Park), two large indoor sport venues (Simkins Indoor Sports Pavilion and Greensboro Sportsplex), four community gardens (Keeley Park, Steelman Park, Maywood Park, and Village at Northside) and fourteen community centers. These centers include multiple recreation centers and specialty facilities like the Smith Senior Center, the Greensboro Cultural Center and the Caldcleugh Multicultural Arts Center. The recreation centers are: Brown Center, Craft Center, Glenwood Center, Griffin Center, Leonard Center, Lewis Center, Lindley Center, Peeler Center, Trotter Center, Warnersville Center, and Windsor Center.

Within city limits, other partners also provide open space amenities to the community. The National Park Service owns Guilford Courthouse National Military Park which offers 5.75 miles of trails and 216 additional acres of regional, special use space that is integrated within the Battleground Park District. The County owns the 2-acre Sternberger Park, the well-loved 250-acre Bur-Mil Park, and 16.52 miles of the Bicentennial Greenway. The Department has an agreement with the Guilford County School District to jointly share use of 8 school facilities in order to make more recreation opportunities available to the community.


Park Classifications As community priorities for recreation programs and facilities change, the types of parks and amenities the Department provides will evolve to support community needs. In Greensboro’s 1998 Parks and Recreation Plan , the Department classified their parks into seven categories which the Department still uses today. Early in the master planning process, the Department reorganized the parks to align with the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) classifications, both to amplify the role of neighborhood parks and to reconcile parks sizes against national standards, which are further interpolated to fit Greensboro’s unique community needs. The park types as identified in the 1998 Plan are described below. A more detailed table comparing park type categorization between 1998 and the current plan can be found at the back of this document in Appendix B. Magnet Park - magnet parks serve multiple neighborhoods in the city and often attract visitors from outside of the region for tournaments and other events. These parks include a mix of passive and

Mini Park - these parks consist of the smallest park spaces in the Department’s portfolio. They typically range in size from a tenth of an acre to just under four acres and include small playgrounds, amenities for seniors and mowed lawns and have similar maintenance needs as neighborhood and community parks. These parks are located in dense urban neighborhoods and developments.

active recreation amenities, and are hubs for organized sports events. There are three magnet parks within the Greensboro park system and Bryan Park in the northeast Greensboro is the largest. Regional Park - regional parks include a larger range of recreation activities than magnet parks, but are more numerous and typically smaller in scale. Many of Greensboro’s regional parks include indoor recreation facilities, restroom facilities and other community-facing spaces. Regional Parks range in size from 76 to 200 acres. Community Park - these parks serve a smaller neighborhood audience similar in nature, level of activity, equipment and maintenance needs to neighborhood parks and mini parks. Many community parks include recreation facilities, swimming pools, multi-purpose fields and basketball courts. Neighborhood Park - these parks were designed to serve individual neighborhoods and typically are more linear parks along stream corridors and steep slopes. Neighborhood parks are between five and fifteen acres in size and include many of the same amenities as mini parks and community parks.

Figure 24. Barber Park is a regional park with many amenities for all ages.

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Figure 25. Greensboro swimming pools are typically integrated into recreation centers such as the one pictured here at Warnersville Recreation Center.

Cemeteries - The Department oversees four public cemeteries. Other than Union Cemetery, most cemeteries are still active burial grounds. The cemeteries are also home to some of the city's oldest tree specimens. Special Use Sites or Facilities - Greensboro also owns and maintains several botanical gardens, a golf course, lakes and reservoirs, sports complexes and other destination-focused programs. These facilities do not have the same range of passive and active attractions as the Department’s parks. Recent investments in the Gateway Gardens and the Greensboro Aquatic Center on the campus of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex have increased the Department's offerings of high-quality recreation and community services. At the beginning of the master planning process, the Department evaluated methods for consolidating park classifications by reviewing peer cities and changes in national standards against the Departments. The following table identifies the resulting reorganization of Greensboro’s parks and facilities. The most significant change from the 1998 system to the 2018 system is to move

Table 3 - Park Classification Table

“mini parks”, and “community parks” within “neighborhood parks”, both to align with national standards for park classifications and to reflect the similarities in amenities provided, walkability goals, and maintenance needs. The park classifications for both plans are compared in the Table 3. Please note, Bur Mil Park and Hagan Stone Park were transferred from the city to Guilford County and several parks and recreation center properties were consolidated between the 1998 plan and the 2018 plan.

1998 Parks & Recreation Plan

2018 Master Plan

Park Classification

Magnet Park



Regional Park



Community Park



Neighborhood Park



Mini Park



Special Sites



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