Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi directs young anglers at the Fishing Derby in Swan Pond Park on Saturday August 5, 2023 | Todd Bannor

The Riverside Parks and Recreation Board plans to embark on a three-phase strategic planning effort this fall, hoping to provide a guide for prioritizing delivery of recreation service for the next decade and beyond.

Earlier this month, village trustees gave recreation officials the go-ahead to seek proposals for a community survey, a parks and program assessment and master plan. If the Parks and Recreation Board chooses to move ahead with all three phases of the planning process, the estimated cost would be around $190,000.

While the rec board has its own tax levy – the result of a 1937 referendum – the village board must authorize expenditures, and village trustees could opt not to fund all three phases.

“It depends on what the village board deems as a priority,” said Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi during an interview last week at the parks and rec headquarters at 43 E. Quincy St. “A master plan will really provide the roadmap and the framework for 10, 20, maybe more years down the road.”

The recreation board put the finishing touches on a request for proposals for all the phases late last week. Firms interested in serving on a consulting basis for any or all of phases have until Oct. 4 to submit proposals.

Malchiodi said he would like to begin the first phase – conducting a community survey – this fall. The survey, which is estimated to cost about $25,000, will seek to find out what Riverside residents, and those from outside the village who uses the village’s rec services, think should be a priority, whether that’s making physical improvements to parks and playgrounds or addressing programs.

That survey data will be broken down by age and compared to the village’s census information, since it’s possible not all age groups will be represented equally by those taking the survey.

“The intent is to gauge the responses against population numbers to make sure we’re addressing the needs specific to those age groups,” Malchiodi told village trustees at their Aug. 3 meeting.

The second phase, estimated at a cost of about $40,000, is a parks and program assessment, where a consultant would evaluate programming and facilities to determine the strengths and weaknesses and inform future planning.

If the response to the survey and the information gleaned from the assessment is complete enough, that conclusions the rec board might draw from it could shortcut the full master planning effort.

“One obvious thing I know we can point to is our playgrounds need to be upgraded,” Malchiodi told the Landmark. “So, if the village board views that as a priority, you don’t necessarily need a master plan to accomplish that.”

The final phase, the creation of a master plan, would cost about $125,000 to complete.

The push for a master planning came on the heels of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the completion of the new recreation headquarters on East Quincy Street in 2021 and a recognition that a host of capital projects loom.

“Between our move here, being understaffed at times, obviously COVID, we’ve bene very good at reacting and being responsive to community needs,” Malchiodi said. “But we’ve never been in a position to do any kind of study and get the information we need.”