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2012 Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Master Plan

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Update: On October 22, 2020, Town Council adopted the PRCR Master Plan addendum. View the latest plan here.

Project Background 

The Town’s nationally accredited Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department oversees a park system of over 2,400 acres of combined parks and open space. This system consists of 22 developed parks, 58 miles of greenways, 3 community centers, 13 staffed facilities and 4 major sports and entertainment venues.

The previous master plan, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Facilities Master Plan, was approved in 2003.

2003 - Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Facilities Master Plan
2003 - PRCR Facilities Master Plan Map
1998 - Parks, Greenways and Bikeways Master Plan

The Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Master Plan initiative is considered an update of the 2003 plan. The document will have a lifespan of 20 years with detailed emphasis on the recommendations of the first 10 years. The Town's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Master Plan represents the Town's commitment to continuing the tradition of providing a balanced system of cultural arts, active recreation, passive recreation and conservation facilities for all residents.  This planning effort recognizes current needs within the Town as well as allowing for the flexibility to incorporate future facilities that will address trends and the needs of residents as the Town continues to grow.

Project Scope

The Town of Cary initiated two important planning efforts:  the update of its Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Master Plan as well as the Public Art Master Plan.

The Town is committed to providing high quality parks, recreation and cultural resource facilities for Cary citizens as these are key components of Cary's recognized high quality of life.  Comprehensive planning is the basis for Cary's nationally accredited park system.  As completed, the PRCR Master Plan will provide detailed recommendations for the next 10 years, from 2012-2022.  These recommendations include new parks and open space, community centers, greenways and cultural arts facilities for the entire Town.

Master Plan Project Vision

Final Master Plan Document

Acknowledgements and TOC

Chapter 1 Executive Summary

Chapter 2 Introduction and Planning Context

Chapter 3 Community Profile and Needs Assessment

Chapter 4 Inventory and Level of Service Analysis

Chapter 5 Park and Open Space System

Chapter 6 Greenways and Trails

Chapter 7 Recreation Programs

Chapter 8 Community and Special Use Facilities

Chapter 9 Management

Chapter 10 Implementation - Project Costs

Appendices A-C

Appendices D-F

Appendix G - Maps and Level of Service Perspectives

Appendix H - School Park Concept Plans

Appendix I - Park Concept Plans

Appendices J-M

2012 Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Master Plan Map (PDF)

Project Schedule

The Master Plan took approximately 16 months to complete. The planning process included the following phases:

> Phase 1 - Information Gathering (May-July 2011): (Completed)
    - Facility Inventory
    - Focus Group Meetings
    - Public Meetings
    - Survey 
> Phase 2 - Findings (August- October 2011): (Completed)
    - Identification of key findings, issues
> Phase 3 - Plan Development (November 2011 - February 2012):  (Completed)
    - Generate Options and Recommendations
> Phase 4 - Plan Approval (May – November 2012)

Public Input Opportunities

> Phase I - E-mail Input – Citizens wishing to share ideas and concerns with the Town regarding the development of Cary's future parks system can do by emailing

> PRCR Board & Committee Meetings - Citizens can attend monthly meetings for the PRCR Advisory Board, or any of the PRCR Committee meetings including the Cultural Arts, Athletics and Greenway Committee meetings. Each of these meetings provides an opportunity at the beginning of each meeting for public input. Schedules for the meetings are below:

> Public Meetings – Public meetings were held in July and October 2011. (See below for input received) A meeting to review the Plan Recommendations is scheduled for April 4, 2012.

Phase 1:  Information Gathering

> PRCR Advisory Board & Committee Meetings (May 2011) – The PRCR Advisory Board and Committees met in May 2011 to review the plan process and provide initial input into the planning process.
Summary of May 2011 Meeting 

>Focus Group Meetings (Held in June, July and August 2011)
Summary of Focus Group Input 

> Phase 1 Public Meetings (July 18-19, 2011)
Summary of Public Comments
Master Plan Word Cloud Graphic 

> Survey – The Town has completed a statistically-valid survey as part of the quantitative needs assessment portion of the plan.
Survey - Final Report
Survey – Open Ended Comments

> Phase I E-mail Input – Citizens wishing to share ideas and concerns with the Town regarding the development of Cary's future parks system were given the opportunity to do so by e-mailing: between June and September of 2011.
Here is summary of the input that was received via e-mail

Phase 2:  Findings

Below is a summary of the findings.

> Inventory Findings - This section provides an overview and analysis of the parks, recreation, trails, and open space system in Cary.
Inventory - Findings
Inventory - Indoor Summary
Inventory - GRASP & LOS Methodology  

> System Map
Perspective Map A – Access To All Components
Perspective Map B – Walkability Map
Perspective Map C – Access To Indoor Rec Centers
Perspective Map D – Composition Analysis
Perspective Map E – Trails Access Analysis

> Benchmarking Analysis
 - Benchmarking is an important tool that allows the comparison of certain attributes of a municipality’s management of public spaces (parks, recreation, aquatics, and related services) with other similar communities. It is very difficult to find exact communities for comparison because each has its own unique identity, its own way of conducting business, and differences in the populations they serve. It is important to keep in mind that while many park and recreation departments serve primarily its residents, others serve a large portion of nonresidents. This being said the benchmarking information presented here should be used as a catalyst for the Town of Cary to continue to research best practices for more specific areas when they are needed.
Summary of Benchmarking Analysis 

> Trends - A challenge of parks and recreation departments is to continue to understand and respond to the changing characteristics of those it serves. It is important to stay on top of current trends impacting parks and recreation. The following information highlights relevant local, regional, and national parks and recreational trends from various sources.
Summary of Trends 

> Demographics - To sufficiently represent current and future demographics, data was obtained using the 2010 U.S. Census, Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc (ESRI) and the Town of Cary’s Planning Department
Summary of Demographics

> Phase 2 - Town Council Work Session (October 25, 2011)
Work Session Staff Report
Work Session Presentation
Summary of October 25, 2011 Town Council Work Session (Minutes) 

> Phase 2 Public Meeting (October 26, 2011)
Summary of Public Comments

Phase 3:  Plan Development

The third phase of the Master Plan Process was: Plan Development – Generating Options and Recommendations. (Completed)

> Draft Plan Recommendations (Goals, Objectives & Actions)
Draft Goals and Objectives

> Joint PRCR Advisory Board/Committee Meeting – The PRCR Advisory Board and Committees reviewed the Plan’s Goals, Objectives and Action Steps in February 2012.
Summary of February 2012 Joint Board/Committee Meeting

> Town Council Work Session – 
The Town Council reviewed the Plan’s Goals, Objectives and Action Steps at a work Session held on February 7, 2012.
Work Session Staff Report
Work Session Presentation
Summary of February 7, 2012 Town Council Work Session

Phase 4:  Plan Approval

In order for the plan to be approved there were numerous boards and committee approvals required prior to approval by Town Council.  The groups include the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board, Athletic Committee, Greenway Committee, Cultural Arts Committee, Planning and Zoning Board. (Completed)

Master Plan Consulting Team

Anne Miller, AICP, Senior Project Consultant


Beth Poovey, RLA, Senior Associate
Dan Dodd, RLA, Senior Associate
Ross Massey, PE, Senior Associate

Stewart Engineering
Iona L. Thomas, AICP, Greenway Design Group Manager
Curtis Bridges, AICP, Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner

Clark Patterson Lee
Bob Cwikla, AIA, LEED AP – Principal Associate
Jeff Sherer, AIA - Principal 


Doug McRainey, Director
Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department
316 N. Academy St. 
Cary, NC 27513
(919) 469-4066 
(919) 469-4344 (fax)