ROCHESTER — Three concepts for the future of Soldiers Memorial Field Park are expected to fuel ongoing discussions about long-term goals for the park, which includes a golf course favored by many local golfers.
“The goal is to come down to one plan,” Mike Nigbur, chief of Rochester’s parks and forests division, told the city’s Park Board on Tuesday.
However, he said that doesn’t mean picking one of the three concepts first shown publicly on Tuesday afternoon.
He said the aim was to consider options in a bid to set priorities for the park, which sits on the southern outskirts of the city center and has the potential to attract a mix of visitors and residents.
The concepts, which will be presented to the public at various events over the coming months, offer the option of keeping 18 holes of golf on site, reducing the number of holes to nine or eliminating the course altogether.
Other potential changes to the park include expanding an updated pool and aquatics plan, adding an arboretum and offering a variety of winter activities, as well as reviewing other amenities and potential park improvements.
Nigbur said priorities identified by the community will be used to develop a final proposal for Rochester City Council and the Park Board to consider later this year, with the goal of having a first draft available in August.
All three concepts were developed following a variety of public comments related to the planned update to the existing 2014 Soldiers Memorial Field Park Master Plan. The engagement included a variety of meetings with groups who use the park, an online survey, and an online map that allowed for individual feedback regarding desired features of the park.
Park planner Jeff Feece said similar efforts will be made to help prioritize from the three concepts.
“There will be more engagement opportunities,” he told a standing crowd, dominated by golfers attending the park’s board meeting.
Concerns over the fate of the Soldiers Field golf course have continued to emerge periodically since the park’s 2014 master plan called for the existing golf course to be reduced to nine holes.
Proponents of the existing course tout its accessibility to young and old golfers.
“What makes this course so unique is that it’s the only course in Rochester that most seniors can walk,” Loy Colebeck, president of the Soldiers Memorial Field Women’s Golf Association, told city council during of its meeting on Monday evening.
On Tuesday, Feece said an online survey conducted earlier this year shows that 54% of 709 attendees said they used the park’s golf course.
At the same time, he said the No. 1 request for new amenities was pickleball courts, followed by an arboretum, which would likely require some of the space currently used by the golf course.
Since 2014, the park’s board and staff have focused on updating the northern part of the park, opting to keep 18 holes in play on the golf course.
The potential for reduced golf in the park emerged more recently with a National Golf Foundation study of the municipal system, which was completed earlier this year.
As a result of the study, City Council asked the Park Board to consider options which could include investing in improving existing golf courses, downsizing one or more of the courses, or maintaining the land without additional funding,
Widman said a review of the city’s courses is continuing through the summer, with a plan for a recommendation to be made this fall or winter.
Nigbur said the golf system and Soldiers Memorial Field Park efforts are being considered in tandem and could inform each other, but discussions about overall park use go beyond just golf.
“The two are really independent,” he said.
He stressed that decisions on the master plan for the park will not be launched immediately, since the aim is to define potential changes over decades.
On the other hand, a decision on the future of the citywide golf program could see changes as early as next spring.
“They’re two separate tracks, but they can end up being the same thing,” he said of the park and golf decisions.
What happened: Rochester Park Board considered three concepts for a master plan for Soldiers Memorial Field Park.
Why is this important: The concepts provide pathways to maintaining, modifying, or eliminating the golf course from the park, while providing a variety of new park amenities for consideration.
And after: Park staff will present the concepts to the public to determine community priorities for the park.