The city has fallen behind in building parks, a master plan submitted recently to the Centerville City Council concluded. But a more serious problem is hindering the city's progress: Its residents don't want to pay for more parks.

The conclusions are part of a master plan for parks and recreation development done for Centerville by Wirth Design Associates and submitted to the council last week.Centerville's four existing parks fall short of the city's needs, planner Ted Wirth concluded, based on participation in organized recreation programs and a total lack of medium-sized, community parks.

But Wirth also reported a survey of residents shows Centerville's homeowners, contrary to other communities across the country, are unwilling to pay higher taxes for more parks.

That presents a challenge to city government, Wirth said, which must move immediately to acquire land for future park development but find alternate sources of money.

According to Wirth, a 1983 survey showed 51 percent of the city's residents unwilling to pay higher taxes for expanded parks. That figure rose to 65 percent in a 1987 survey, Wirth reported.

And, the same 1987 survey showed property tax hikes as the least desirable way to pay for new parks.

"In regard to parks and recreation, the results of the surveys are inconsistent with community attitudes historically throughout the country," Wirth concludes.

"There is high public participation in active sports activities in Centerville coupled with a shortage of facilities," Wirth concluded. "So obviously there is a need.

"The challenge for the city will be to determine a fair, equitable and publicly acceptable way to meet the need."

The master plan concludes the city's four existing parks fall short of meeting the city's needs. Centerville has gotten by, Wirth said, by using ball fields and recreation facilities in school yards and church properties.

The city needs more small neighborhood parks in the two- to 10-acre range, with picnic shelters, playground equipment and an open play area. Wirth recommends one neighborhood park for every 2,000 residents, within 10 to 15 minutes walking time.

And, the plan states, the city has no community park, which Wirth defines as a 10- to 40-acre park with picnic shelters, playing fields, indoor-outdoor facilities and more community-oriented facilities.

As for the city's four existing parks, the plan finds the city's newest facility, Smoot Park, comes closest to meeting the standards of a neighborhood park with its "balance of activity areas and facilities."

The Seventh East Park is built on three terraces because of the steepness of the terrain, which inhibits some uses, the plan concludes. "This group use orientation and limited open space combined with the different levels is what makes it less utilized than perhaps it should be by the neighborhood," Wirth concluded.

Smith Park, on Main Street, is only 2.5 acres, mostly open space with a few picnic shelters and a toilet. The city is considering building a new city hall on the property, Wirth said, finding that usually not an acceptable use for park land.

But if the rest of the park is redeveloped at the same time, he concludes, adding play facilities and more picnic tables, the park could still function as an acceptable neighborhood park.

City Park, the ball fields between the frontage road off I-15 and the current city administration building, should be sold to a commercial developer and the money used to develop the city's new park property farther north, the study concludes.

The city recently purchased additional property at about 13th North, giving it a 23-acre parcel for development of ball fields and other rec-reation facilities.

And, the plan recommends the creek drainages that run through Centerville, along with the debris basins used for flood control, be maintained as open space, with hiking and biking trails.

With its residents opposed to further tax hikes to pay for more parks, the plan recommends some alternatives, ranging from setting up a tax-exempt parks foundation to seek donations to establishing special improvement districts, higher development impact fees, user fees, and imposing a local sales tax.