Local Profile spoke with local Parks and Recreation Department representatives to find out more about what makes Collin County’s parks just so darn special. And while you can check what the secret sauce is made of in our latest issue, let’s check out the parks are at the top of the top according to the experts and even take a look into the future and find out what exciting projects are coming to Allen.
With 20 years of experience within the parks and recreation industry in the US and New Zealand, Kate Meacham’s been Allen’s director of Park and Recreation since 2020, specializing in facility development, programming and strategic planning.
This interview has been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Based on your experience in the field, which would you consider to be the biggest changes in parks and public space planning in recent years?
One of the big things is inclusion. While we’ve been doing it for years, I think there’s been a real hyper-focus on ensuring that inclusive elements are throughout and really focusing on the experience that kiddos and adults have.
We are really focusing on the different types of experiences that you can have. For example, dog parks. 20 years ago everybody laughed when they talked about dog parks and now we’re getting one this year.
I think that’s a major trend — making sure that just because you don’t have kiddos doesn’t mean you don’t go to parks. So we really focus on making sure we have a well-rounded portfolio of different offerings.
Speaking of trends, programmed parks are the new standard and planned activities that attract residents are more and more common. Where does Allen stand on programmed activities?
We’re actually working on a couple right now. Our biggest showpiece that we’re working on at the moment is the master plan for what’s called Molsen Farm. Probably the biggest deficit we have in our portfolio of parks from a programming and play perspective is nature-based programming spaces.
There are not a lot of structures that let you get into the woods and experience all the different types of prairie grasses and things that let kids actually go and learn about nature in a hands-on approach. So we just went through a master plan process with Molsen to really have that immersion into nature.
Will Molsen be a part of Allen’s big trail system?
Yes! Allen is very fortunate, we are just shy of 80 miles of trails within the community, and we are ready to add more through a $4 million federal and state grant we recently received.
One of our main trail thoroughfares connects down to Plano in Oak Point park and it would actually go up through the Molsen Farm, past the golf course and it eventually will go all the way up through our McDermott property just South of Twin Creeks.
It is a major infrastructure that we are hoping will be ready by the end of 2026, at least a big portion.
What are Allen’s park and rec’s priorities?
Definitely nature and trails. Trail development for us is always a huge priority and we always put that at the forefront.
But recently we are also looking at aging infrastructure. For example, Ford Park on the east side of town is one of the aging facilities that we are looking to remaster plan and reimagine what it could be in the future.
So the redevelopment of parks to make sure that they are not worn out and they stay fresh is a priority we try to balance with our nature and trail focus. We want to keep a holistic approach to balance out the different demands of the community.
Are there any exciting projects coming our way?
We have a number of them! Stephen G. Terrell park is obviously one of the biggest ones, but we are also working on a dog park that should be opening at the end of the year.
Another unique project that we are currently working on is the Allen Heritage Village as part of the renovations of the historic village located off of St. Mary street across from our Senior Center. Once the renovations are completed, we are looking to work with the Allen Heritage Guild on running different types of programs and activities to put Allen’s historic elements in the spotlight.
We want to make sure that people can appreciate where we come from. We are planning on having a big opening event this fall.
What’s your favorite park in Allen and why would you recommend it?
It’s like you are asking me what my favorite child is! It really is hard to say. I think right now, the excitement around the new Stephen G. Terrell park is huge for us. When it opens this summer, in addition to the brand new, 150,000 square foot park, it’ll also have our new Stephen G. Terrell recreation center.
It really is going to showcase what Allen’s been looking for with the indoor pickleball courts and the two-story indoor playground. I think it brings together truly what you see as a community gathering space.