Board discusses priorities for city park amenities

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By SHELLY WILKISON

With $346,000 in park development fees expected in the coming months, the City’s Parks & Recreation Board is discussing priorities for park improvements, some of which could be in place by summer.

The City requires developers to either donate park land for public use or make a payment in lieu of a land designation. Those funds are to be used exclusively by the City to develop public parks.

Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis said the City received $58,437 in March from MorningStar Phases 1 and 2, and Phases 3 and 4 of the development will pay an additional $55,000 in July.

Additional expected revenue includes $99,000 from Orchard Ridge in May, $88,800 from Liberty Parke in June, $45,000 from Highland Terrace in June, and $42,000 from Rosemont in the first part of the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

Central Park is dedicating 0.6 acre in park land in June, Lewis said.

At the Parks Board’s regular meeting Tuesday, the panel discussed some priorities for improvements that could be paid for using the funds from the development agreements.

In recent months, the Board has been asking for input from the community as to the types of amenities they would like to see in city parks. Members saw results of the survey Tuesday, and also heard from Brownie Troop 277, which made a strong case for the construction of a swimming pool.

In a presentation to the Board, the Troop shared results of a student survey at Bill Burden Elementary that showed overwhelming interest in a community pool from third graders.

“Some of us are on swim teams, and we’d like to be on a team closer to where we live,” one scout said. “We need a community pool where we can practice every day.”

The Troop surveyed 98 third graders. A pool was the top preferred amenity followed by a ropes course, a dog park and skate park. Of the respondents, 30 percent said they had pools at their homes, others said they had them in their neighborhoods.

Although some of the girls appeared disappointed that the Board did not respond affirmatively Tuesday with a promise to build a pool, Board members asked them to be patient and explained that pools are costly.

“We are in our planning stages right now,” said Board Chair Mary Lyn Jones. “Our budget may not allow us to do this now, but we can do things in phases.”

When asked if interested in splash pads or other water features, the girls said no. One parent noted that a splash pad serves younger children.

“As a community, if we set our mind on getting a swimming pool, then I’m sure we’ll get that done as well,” added Board member Michael Wilson.

In the online survey conducted by the Parks Board, which has received 168 responses to date, respondents ranked a splash pad ahead of a pool.

Placing third on the City Park wish list was more restroom facilities, followed by more lighting and playground equipment.

On a list of priorities, which was previously developed by the Parks Board, for City Park, a walking trail ranked first. Although no vote was taken, the Board appeared to agree that the walking trail project should wait until 2017.

City Administrator Greg Boatright said Williamson County is about to embark on expansion of CR 200 to a four-lane road. He said crews are surveying the area now, and it is possible that the project could require some of the property from the park for right of way.

Other Board preferences for City Park in Phase 1, which would have funding preference, were picnic tables and lighting. Phase 2 would include a splash pad, paved entry on south side of the park and additional fencing.

The Board’s priority list for the new park, referred to as Perlie Bell Pocket Park at CR 279 and Loop 332, includes naming the park, adding picnic tables and benches, landscaping, walking areas, lights and fencing.

Part of the purpose of the pocket park is to help provide relief from drainage problems in the area. A proposed skate park will serve a dual purpose in that regard. That element is listed under Phase 2 for funding, but Boatright said that should be moved up higher on the list.

“We can’t put drainage off. I would put skate park into Phase 1,” he said. “I’d like us to get started on some projects,” said Jones. “If we start putting things on hold like we’ve done in the past, this could go on for years.”

Jones suggested that vendors be identified for those items in Phase 1 on both park properties, and that staff begin the process of obtaining bids, specifically on picnic tables, park benches and fencing.

Boatright said he would contact area developers to get a better idea of the costs of swimming pool construction for future planning. He added that he was concerned about the public’s perception of city progress as they hear about discussions on ideas for improvements, but don’t see them implemented right away. He said goals should be set that are attainable.

“I know it’s frustrating for citizens to hear the ideas we discuss, but they don’t see it happen,” he said. “But, if we create the energy through our efforts to push the envelope forward, it will gain momentum from the City Council and the EDC (Economic Development Corp.),” he added. “With all three boards working together, a lot can be accomplished.”

The Parks Board will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. May 24 at City Park to look over available space for a possible splash pad and other amenities. Board member Debra Brown was not present Tuesday.

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