Parks Board considering development of downtown pocket park, asking for input

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Perlie Bell Master Plan

By SHELLY WILKISON

The City of Liberty Hill is working on plans for a pocket park at the corner of Bagdad Road and Loop 332 that will offer the opportunity to make drainage improvements downtown while providing a possible skate park, splash pad, trails and other amenities.

Former Senior Planner Jim Bechtol designed a plan for the park and recently presented it to the Parks & Recreation Board.

Although no action was taken by the Board, City Manager Greg Boatright told The Independent this week that adding and improving parks is a top priority for the City, and is a regular discussion among staff and engineers.

“Parks are up there as far as what people really want (in a community),” Boatright said.

He said the Parks Board, made up of volunteers who live inside the city and school district, are actively engaged in efforts to improve quality of life issues with public parks.

In fact, the Parks Board has developed a survey to determine how the community uses City Park on CR 200 as well as Lions Foundation Park. The survey, which will be posted online soon, also asks respondents to describe how they use the existing, identify amenities they would like to see in a park, and rate the overall condition of the parks.

Parks Board President Mary Lyn Jones said information obtained from the survey will help the City plan future park amenities. She said the information will be especially useful as discussions continue between the City and the Liberty Hill Development Foundation regarding the possible transfer of ownership of Foundation Park to the City.

“We don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen, but we want to be ready,” she said.

The City purchased the Perlie Bell property in 2015 with the intention of using it to improve drainage and developing a pocket park. In that regard, Boatright said a concrete area that will be built to help with drainage will double as a skate park. He said 99 percent of the time, the concrete area will be free of water.

“It will be a detention area during storm runoff to let water out at a reasonable rate,” he said. “Why not utilize the concrete we will pour and let it double as an area for kids to come skate.

“The drainage structure will blend in and people will look at it more as a skate area. The objective is to have it in that area, but recognize it more as a skate area,” he said.

A portion of the Bell property was also intended to be used for a roundabout at the intersection that would serve as a landscaped gateway into downtown.

The park design created by Bechtol includes the roundabout, and Boatright said that is a key to development of the park. Because Loop 332 is a state-owned roadway, the City needs approval from Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). Boatright and other city staff members have a meeting scheduled with state agency officials later this week, and the City Manager is hoping for a positive outcome.

“I’d like to see if they will let us bring some money to the table and spearhead the project, possibly take over this section of the loop or allow us to do a project in their right of way,” he said.

In these early stages, Boatright said he can’t be sure whether there is enough space to construct the roundabout, which he estimates could require a 200-foot circumference. City engineers will be doing aerial surveys to help determine feasibility.

To construct the detention area, the roundabout and develop the park could cost the City an estimated $800,000-$1.2 million, Boatright said. He said funding for the projects would come from park development fees paid to the City through development agreements, the General Fund or the street maintenance fund.

“It really depends on what we’re talking about in right of way,” he said. “If it (the roundabout) eats up all our tract and the Burnett tract (on the opposite side of Loop 332), we may not do it (the roundabout).”

He said the development of the pocket park and drainage improvements will happen regardless of whether the roundabout is built.

“The main purpose in my mind to purchasing that property was to improve the drainage situation,” he said. “Drainage is a big issue for our city because it is non existent. We have to start somewhere.”

Boatright said the Parks Board will discuss the pocket park plan again when it meets in March. If the Board recommends Council approve the plan, it would be placed on a future Council meeting agenda, and the staff would then pursue various funding options.

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