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EDC park project moving forward

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pending approval by Bandera City Council, directors of the Bandera Economic Development Corporation, headed by businessman Johnny Boyle, welcomed aboard Paul Barwick as a consultant for the recently revived City Park Project.
Barwick had worked pro bono on the original park master plan, which was completed in 2002. At that time, it was suggested that the plan would need updating in five to 10 years. It remains unclear how many of the previous suggestions were implemented.
Currently, Barwick serves as special projects director for the City of Boerne and has been instrumental in the renovation of River Road Park that runs through the city along the banks of Cibolo Creek.
Interestingly, during an EDC meeting in May, Director Lynn Palmer objected to hiring Barwick as a consultant for the park, registering concerns 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.
EDC Director Binky Archer disagreed, saying that work on the front part of City Park and a portion on the south side of the Medina River should be included in a plan.
Additionally, event coordinator Genie Strickland added, "(Consulting with Paul Barwick) would be well worth the cost. This would give 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.
Prior to the June 19, meeting, however, Palmer seemed to have had an epiphany. As Barwick began describing the project and the scope of services he could provide, she interrupted his narrative saying, "If he did the first plan without being paid, I have no objection to hiring Paul to present us with a (revised) plan."
Boyle and the rest of the EDC, however, elected to listen to Barwick's presentation in its entirety.
When asked if he had ever "run into opposition" when developing River Road Park in Boerne due to its close proximity to the creek and ever-present danger of flooding, Barwick said, "No, River Park is well-loved and everything has been built of steel and concrete to be bombproof." For example, the trail was constructed of six-inch thick concrete. The 1.7-mile trail and park cost the city $3 million.
Discussing Bandera City Park, Barwick said he would emphasize local architecture, the town's "Cowboy Capital" brand and vision for the area. He suggested using the park to tell the story of Bandera with historical panels placed along a walking trail.
The interpretive signs, Barwick said, would depict "authentic people, places and events that celebrate the natural and cultural resources of Bandera and Bandera County." As examples, the signs could explain the Western Trail, dude ranches, geology, archeology, early settlers, river resources and flooding and native plants and wildlife, among others. The signs would cost approximately $650 each.
Discussing other cost considerations, Barkwick said, "Land stewardship is an important key. We want the cypress canopy to be intact 100 years from now." An updated park master plan is essential to apply for grants, he added.
After reviewing the EDC's "wish list" for the park, Barwick estimated it would take between $500,000 and $1 million to install all amenities. "You also have to figure in maintenance costs and public safety factors."
Under the initial phase of development, he would prepare a conceptual master plan for the entire park after gathering the necessary data. Phase I would include sketches, drawings and elevations along with called public meetings. "We want rock solid public input and prioritized items," Barwick said.
After preliminary costs have been established for the conceptual Phase I plan, Barwick said more meetings would take place to discuss project programming, desired amenities and to review alternatives and present the final plan and illustrations.
He estimated it would take three months to complete the conceptual plan at a cost of $5,450.
"Funding will be a problem because the EDC has no line item for this proposal," Boyle said. He proposed amending the budget and having council approve the amendment then holding the required public hearing.
Boyle also suggested Barwick make his proposal to city council on Thursday, July 11, the next scheduled council meeting. "Then you can start on July 12," Boyle said.
An alternative would be for council to fund the $5,400, allowing the public hearings to be published and scheduled more quickly. "We like to move as quickly on this as we legally can," Boyle said.