Cobb County will soon begin its first comprehensive master plan for its Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department in nearly 15 years.

Commissioners earlier this month unanimously approved a $224,000 contract with Lose & Associates Inc. to provide professional services for preparation of the comprehensive master plan. Funding for the contract will come from the county’s 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax; the countywide master plan was included in the 2016 SPLOST project list.

“Comprehensive park master plans are periodically created by park systems around the country as a means to guide departmental offerings and future developments in order to provide appropriate services for their citizens,” said Tom Bills, senior project manager for the county’s parks department. He said the completed plan would provide direction for future development and program growth to address Cobb’s growing and changing population, which has increased from nearly 608,000 in 2000 to more than 741,000 in 2015 — almost 22 percent — according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The master plan, which would be a 10-plus year update to the existing master plan developed in 2001 and 2002, would incorporate a current parks and facility inventory, including county, federal and city parks, as well as trends such as changes in popular sports and leisure activities.

The plan will also include coordination with other county efforts, such as planning for the county’s connective pedestrian and bike trails.

Lose & Associates, which maintains offices in Lawrenceville and Nashville, Tennessee, boasts that it has provided services for entities in more than 25 states, with some of its metro-area projects including Forsyth County’s greenspace program and an athletic facilities master plan for the city of Decatur.

“They’ve done this throughout the country, so they know what to look for,” said Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. “I think it’s good to have a consultant that does this in other areas of the state, other parts of the county, because an outside (firm) coming in to the county has some fresh ideas or maybe knows what the trends are in other places.”

The firm is no stranger to Cobb. It was retained by the county to develop construction documents and provide administration services for the development of the Mud Creek Soccer Complex on Barrett Parkway near Macland and West Sandtown roads, according to the company’s website.

The county is working with the firm to execute the contract with the hope to get started within two or three weeks, Bills said, with Cobb officials expecting the plan to be completed early next summer.

Bills said that while the parks department has 174 full-time positions and a total 2016 budget of about $19.8 million, development of a comprehensive plan takes “particular expertise” and time commitments are typically not available in local parks departments, including Cobb’s.

The master plan could also incorporate future park land. The county’s recreation board has an Oct. 25 deadline to present its list of recommended properties for future county parks to the Board of Commissioners.

That list is expected to be culled from the 166 properties members of the public earlier this year nominated for purchase by the county to increase green space.

Two-thirds of Cobb voters approved a $40 million parks bond in November 2008, but the bonds approved by voters were never issued by then-county Chairman Sam Olens due to a tanking economy and a tax increase he said would come as a result of the bonds’ issuance.

Commissioners have yet to take action regarding the approved parks bond.

If the parks bonds are issued and new properties are acquired by the county before the master plan is completed, Bills said, potential uses for the new properties would be incorporated into the plan.

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