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Plans for Bandera City Park move forward

By Judith Pannebaker EDC Editor

In the past, the Bandera Economic Development Corporation had trouble mustering a quorum for its quarterly meetings - let along attracting an audience to witness the proceedings. Not so lately, apparently EDC meetings have become the hottest ticket in town. The EDC meets at 6 pm, the second Wednesday of each month in the municipal building on Main Street.

On Wednesday, May 1, however, EDC directors held a special meeting for what President Johnny Boyle described as a "brain storming session" to discuss plans for Bandera City Park.

He also assured everyone, "We're not going to build the park in one night. No final decisions will be made this evening. We're here to identify short- and long-term plans and to prioritize what we want."

Opposition to park plans update
Park planner Paul Barwick has been contacted to update a 2002 City Park plan. A member of the Nature Conservancy, he also serves as special projects director for the City of Boerne.

As lead coordinator on the Hill Country Mile (HCM), a downtown revitalization initiative, Barwick coordinates all HCM activities, including project branding and marketing; revitalization and enhancement of the commercial viability and aesthetic character of historic downtown; construction oversight of capital improvement projects within the HCM Downtown District; and development, implementation and maintenance of downtown economic development programs.

Director Lynn Palmer immediately registered concern about the EDC spending additional money on park plans when past endeavors had been relegated to shelves. She felt current work could be completed by adhering to the previous park plan.

Disagreeing, Director Binky Archer said that work on the front park of City Park and that portion on the south side of the Medina River needs to be included in a plan.

Boyle noted that the last plan, which was done 10 to 12 years ago, could be easily redrawn. He anticipated that it would take Barwick no more than 30 days to develop an updated version.

"(Consulting with Paul Barwick) would be well worth the cost," said event coordinator Genie Strickland. "This gives us an opportunity to complete park plans in stages rather than the hodgepodge we had before."

When Palmer again objected to hiring Barwick as a consultant, Boyle asked her, "Do you advocate spending money without a plan?"

"No," Palmer replied.

"Well, that's what I'm hearing," Boyle rejoined. He said Barwick's plan would be presented to the EDC board for consideration. "We have to develop a complete plan and it won't take forever," Boyle said.

City Park - now & in future

Following discussions underscored the fact that Bandera City Park is jumping. Current events that take place along the banks of the Medina River include RiverFest, Cowboy Church services during Celebrate Bandera, Cowboy Capital Christmas Light Trail, July 4 Pet Parade and the Medina River Cleanup, among other activities.

Athletic events include the Bandera Electric Cooperative 5K Run, as well as track and field competitions hosted by the Bandera Independent School district and out-of-county schools. From February to December, the park also serves as a staging area for local parades.

In addition, Strickland hinted that a western re-enactment may take place at the park in the future, noting, "The river's the place of choice from April through November."

Palmer opted for a "huge city-wide Easter egg hunt" at City Park with assistance from members of the Bandera County Boys & Girls Club. She also said it could be used by Bandera ISD students as a field trip destination. A playground, educational installations and a skate park were mentioned.

Infrastructure 'wish list'

Expanded park infrastructure might include defined parking and driving areas, directional - aka "way finding" - signage placed throughout the city to assist people find City Park, fencing to control access to certain areas and additional restrooms close to pavilions and a proposed playground, among other considerations. Strickland also expressed a desire for better placement of electrical outlets, saying, "The present electrical layout is not where it needs to be." Additional power is needed for the Christmas lights and special events.

Boyle's main concern was that all projects take into consideration all operational and maintenance costs, as well as insurance costs - points he kept coming back to throughout the meeting.

Palmer wanted to ensure that playgrounds would be accessible when the park was open. Director Martha Shoemaker noted that some security would have to be in place to prevent 200-pound teenagers from destroying equipment designed for pre-schoolers as had apparently happened at a United Methodist Church playground.

If lights are installed for security, Strickland asked that they be the kind that go on and off rather than the more prevalent "dusk to dawn" variety.

Regarding proposed walking trails, Director Carolyn Edwards suggested the paths be designed as wide as possible to permit simultaneous walking, jogging and inline skating activities.

Strickland recommended that no vehicles be allowed to drive and park along the river except for loading and unloading.

Although Palmer equated banning vehicles with "giving up freedom," Boyle said it would not impose a hardship. "We can't be all things to all people," he said.

Concurring with Boyle, Strickland said, "Removing vehicles would control the clutter and would create a better ambiance in the park."

Sports, skate boarding & shade

On the matter of sports in the park, suggestions included an expansion of the disc golf course, adding soccer and softball fields and a volleyball sand pit and, of course, the skate park.

Speaking against the skate park, city resident Sherry McCullough cited the constant noise caused by skating reverberations, barking dogs and a general unpleasantness, including trash and liability issues, associated with the genre.

Previously, she had lived near a skate park in Arlington. "A skate facility should not be constructed in City Park," McCoullough. "I vote, 'No.' That's my two cents worth."

Describing himself as the "person who re-ignited [interest] in the skate park, Glenn Clark felt it "would not be a problem." He continued, "I don't see where else we could go. It's tough enough to get funds, but it would be impossible if we had to buy land."

Clark said the skate park would include security fencing, adding, "The kids will be part of the supervision of the park and I personally will patrol for trash." He felt the skate park would generate no more noise than "people swimming in the river."

When it was pointed out that sports fields for local youth are available at the Sports Complex on Highway 16 North, Joe Hearn said that teams were not allowed to practice on those fields. Boyle noted that should fields be developed in City Park, he felt sure athletic teams, such as the Little League, would be amenable to contributing to their maintenance costs.

It was also suggested that more trees be planted in the park for shade and that alternative shade structures be constructed along the proposed walking and jogging path. "Just so we know what we're building and how much it costs when it's finished," Boyle said.

When the discussion concluded, Boyle said he would convey the EDC wish list to Barwick. "He'll tell us whether this will work out or not," Boyle said, adding that Barwick would come up with the park design but not the budget.

While noting that nothing is etched in stone, Boyle said, "We'll give Paul the information he needs to give us the plan we think we want."

Pictured: Photos by Judith Pannebaker
After a Wednesday, May 1, workshop, from left, Economic Development Corporation Directors Lynn Palmer and Carolyn Edwards discuss plans for Bandera City Park.

Photos by Judith Pannebaker
The 2002 park plan offered elevations of proposed buildings, monuments and perimeter fencing for Bandera City Park