Windsor, California’s “Swiss Army knife” park plan finds buy-in & funding flexibility

By Casey Case, president, and Rylee Rodriguez, planner, Gates + Associates, April 2024

Planning processes are not just about drawing lines on a map. They’re about envisioning a future, about setting goals and objectives that reflect the unique character and potential of a town and its residents. In the case of Windsor, California, a town nestled in Sonoma County with a population of 26,344 (2020 census), the Keiser Park Master Plan Update planning process for the existing Keiser Park was an opportunity to create a bigger, more popular community gathering place and resource that would stand the test of time.

Image of Windsor, CA, Keiser Park Master Plan in site plan view.
Windsor’s Keiser Park Master Plan remakes and expands its 34-acre ‘central park’ | Photo credit: City of Windsor

Keiser Park features 34 acres of green space, sports facilities, and picnic areas, with a playground, dog park, an oak tree grove, and more. It hosts community events throughout the year, such as the highly popular July 4th Kaboom fireworks program, that enliven the park with people and activities.

In 2021, the Town undertook an update to a 2008 Master Plan to reimagine the park’s potential and celebrate its unique cultural, historical, and natural assets. A concurrent development to the effort was the donation of two adjacent parcels to the Town of Windsor and to the Windsor Unified School District which has an adjacent high school and sports fields.

Banner hanging on chain-link fence invites people to join the planning process by visiting the project website.
Community engagement and input were central to Windsor’s Keiser Park Master Plan planning process | Photo credit: City of Windsor

Swiss-Army knife plan of design options & implementation strategies

The Master Plan Update, a forward-looking document, is not just a plan. It’s a future-oriented vision that evolved from an extensive study of the existing park site and its context, reflects extensive community engagement, and presents a comprehensive preferred site design. It’s a roadmap recommending an implementation strategy to transform Keiser Park into a bigger, more popular community gathering place and resource for future generations.

The planning process started in 2021 and had two rounds of outreach, including fun activities like a design charette, to encourage the community to get involved. Building on a 2008 plan, the revised Master Plan aims to:

  • Incorporate the acquired park expansion properties and incorporate existing environmental review efforts;
  • Set out the design and location of proposed improvements and facilities, including key additions of an Aquatics Complex and a Recreation Center;
  • Consider multi-purpose use of the site, such as disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, as well as potential coordinated school program use; and
  • Investigate costs, funding mechanisms, and project partners and outline a strategy for moving forward.

Facilities, open space, programming, emergency ops & pedestrian/bike/vehicle integration

Windsor, CA master plan multi-use community facilities illustrated
A multi-dimensional community center complex serves key functions, including gathering spaces, classroom/meeting options, recreational uses, and emergency needs | Photo credit: City of Windsor

The project originally contemplated three concepts, and a final preferred plan was selected that included a recreation center with an outdoor dining area and an amphitheater with a stage that connects inside to the multi-purpose gym/room. The recreation center includes a multi-purpose room, multiple smaller multi-purpose classrooms, a commercial kitchen, and offices. The center also doubles as an emergency planning resource and evacuation site, enabling the Town to pursue potential grants for starting design and construction.

An aquatic center features competition and leisure pools, slides, a beach entry, audience seating, lockers, and showers. The community’s highest priority was this, so it was labeled a priority phase of the final program.

Windsor, CA master plan aquatic facility illustrated
A new swim center at Keiser Park is a priority goal for the community | Photo credit: City of Windsor

Other key features include fun amenities like a pump track, nature playground, community garden, multi-purpose field with soccer and baseball, space for large and small events, enhanced walking and biking paths throughout the site, and better vehicular circulation.

The concept was presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission (PARC) on December 13, 2023, when it was recommended to the Town Council for adoption. The Town Council adopted the plan unanimously on February 7, 2024.

Community buy-in and funding flexibility

The project enthused the community, which embraced the final concept and plan. At the town council meeting, it was evident that the community wants the park and believes it is needed to provide for future generations.

Photo of grove of trees in Keiser Park, Windsor, CA
Keiser Park’s existing tree-laden landscape is a community asset. | Photo credit: City of Windsor

As for what’s next, the Town of Windsor is currently developing a budget and funding plan to obtain funds for the construction of the priority-phase recreation/aquatic center and is considering long-term funding through various sources for future phases.

The Keiser Park Master Plan Update was developed in collaboration with the Parks and Recreation Department under the direction of Olivia Lemen, director. Gates + Associates Landscape Design and Planning led the process. They worked with Siegel & Strain Architects on the recreation center design and ArchPac Aquatics on the aquatic center design, and with key consultants M-Group for environmental review, GHD for civil engineering, and Kerrigan & Partners for financing strategies.

About the Authors

Casey Case, president, and Rylee Rodriguez, planner, are with Gates & Associates, a landscape architecture and urban design firm in Walnut Creek, CA. The firm focuses on creating sustainable, extraordinary places for commercial and residential real estate firms and public sector clients in the western U.S. Information on Keiser Park Master Plan at:

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