It was one of the last things discussed at the two-day Guilford County Board of Commissioners Retreat in High Point last week.

However, it was certainly not the least. Based on the discussion and the plans being formulated, it’s one area where Guilford County residents can expect to see some major changes and key upgrades in the coming years.

The subject at hand was Guilford County’s parks and open space system, and which long-term changes should be undertaken to make the system one of the best in the region – one that will pull in a lot of sports tourists and other visitors.

The discussion at the retreat came in the midst of a comprehensive parks study meant to guide the county’s parks upgrades.

Some of the questions asked of the commissioners at the retreat held in Congdon Yards Event Center In High Point were what the parks system was doing right, and what were considered the strongest aspects of the parks.

Several commissioners highlighted the parks staff as the best feature and offered them praise in their work revamping the parks system – which has already undergone major improvements in recent years.  For instance, the clubhouse at Bur-Mil Park underwent major renovation. The county has created pickleball courts to provide for the very popular sport. Scenic trails have been added to Company Mill Preserve and other park areas.

At the retreat, Commissioner Kay Cashion said she was almost astonished at the number of recreational opportunities currently available for families and other park users.  Cashion said, to take Bur-Mil Park as one example, a family could go there and stay occupied engaging in various fun activities for an entire day.

That park has a top-notch events center, a nature classroom, golf, a swimming pool hiking and biking, trails and other activities among it’s 250 acres of trees, water, and open space.

One problem in recent years has been hiring enough life guards to staff the pools at county parks.  Commissioner Alan Perdue suggested staff get a very early start on hiring them each year before the lifeguards are snatched up by competing entities.

There was also discussion as to how the parks system could be used as a driver of economic development since a great parks system adds to the quality of life in a county.

Last year, county parks staff began collecting citizen input for its comprehensive master plan meant to guide parks and open space decisions for the next 10 years.  In forming the plan, parks staff has been evaluating Guilford County’s seven active regional parks – five of which the county operates.

There are ten passive parks in Guilford County that will also be shaped by the plan, as well as over 60 miles of trails and greenways.

Between now and the end of 2024, Guilford County is asking residents to continue to engage with parks officials through a series of community workshops, online surveys and social media sites. There have been discussions on a wide range of topics – from needed park amenities to environmental preservation during the coming renovation projects.

Guilford County Parks is also seeking input from local organizations, nonprofits, businesses and others.

A social media campaign meant to encourage ongoing conversations about the future of the parks is also underway.