City Park brainstorming session
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Stakeholders in Bandera City Park met with consultant Paul Barwick on Thursday, Oct. 24, to offer their input on future amenities and park programming.
Members of various city and county commissions, committees, corporations and boards trundled out to the Bandera Electric Cooperative for the nearly two-hours of brain-storming. After protracted discussions, Lynn Palmer gave voice to the general consensus, "Most people want the park kept as natural as possible with not a lot of buildings or lighting."
'Things change ...'
According to Barwick, suggestions would be incorporated into the Bandera City Park Master Plan, which is required when applying for funding grants. The initial information gathering session concentrated on the park's goal concept and Phase I - the entrance and high activity end of the park.
After citing previous park studies done in 1987, 2002 and 2009, Barwick noted, "Earlier plans called for more development, but over time, things change and plans change. Green space becomes more valuable. Your most valuable asset is the park's open natural area."
The land for City Park was donated by the Holy Name Society of the Catholic Church with the stipulation that utility poles not be installed in the park.
Suggestions for Phase I included signage that would enhance the entire park, restrooms at the front of the park and upgrading electrical outlets for public safety.
Regarding the latter recommendation, Palmer, a director with the Economic Development Corporation, referenced an exchange that took place at an EDC meeting on Oct. 16. Speaking about the Christmas lights, event planner Genie Strickland said she would require the city to sign a release absolving the Bandera Business Association from liability should a child "get electrocuted" as a result of playground equipment being installed too close to the park's electrical outlets.
Palmer's suggestion, "If there's the possibility that kids playing will get electrocuted, maybe we shouldn't put up Christmas lights this year until we resolve this situation," brought a collective gasp from Directors Martha Shoemaker and Binky Archer.
Strickland offered, "The BBA has spent a lot of money getting Bandera into the Trail of Lights," and all discussion of electrocutions trailed off.
Fast forwarding to the park planning session, Palmer made it clear she wanted the issue of electrical outlet safety a top priority.
For his part, octogenarian Alfred Anderwald called the City Park Dam "the worst thing that happened to the Medina River," declaring it prevented white bass from going up the river because no fish ladder had been installed. "Herbicide on the highway washing into the river killed the bullfrogs, mussels and crawdads, now the only thing that's left is carp and gar," he added.
"Unfortunately, those are the byproducts of growth," Barwick rejoined.
Glenn Clark favored restructuring the dam to eliminate an undertow that forms below the spillway. "A number of people have drowned below the dam," he said. According to a consensus, the dam was constructed in 1957 or '58.
Mayor Don Clark said that the dam is cracked and that during a previous cleanup project, "We had to leave 25 feet of silt built up against the dam" as a result of the crack.
One suggestion that nearly everyone agreed on was the necessity of clearing an area from the 1st Street Bridge to the so-called Dripping Springs area near 5th Street. "This is an area worth protecting and it's overgrown and dangerous," Palmer said. That stretch of the Medina River affords opportunities for wading, swimming and even tubing.
"There's a small pond in the area of 3rd and 4th streets," Hearn said, adding it would only take a "couple of dozers" to clear the area of chunks of concrete deposited by flooding.
In response, Barwick said very few such clearing projects could be instituted now due to draconian legal requirements and permits necessary from the state.
Glenn Clark told Barwick that plans are proceeding for a proposed 6,000 to 7,000 square foot skate park located near the south restrooms. "It's out of the way and not in the park itself," Clark said.
Barwick said a skate park in Boerne, which cost $300,000 and required a bond election, was heavily used.
When someone questioned city liability, Clark replied, "As long as the equipment is maintained, insurance from TML (Texas Municipal League) will cover [the skate park]."
Other future amenities might include canopies to shade play areas, fields maintained for practice sessions, sturdier playground equipment, an additional nine holes for the disk golf course and natural trails "wide enough for two people to walk," as well as amphitheater seating for outdoor movies.
According to Barwick, the "amphitheater" need not be more than a carved out space with terraced ground. "A natural amphitheatre would not change the integrity of the park," he said.
Joe Hearn suggested that the park entrance be relocated to an area by 11th Street to prevent traffic backups on Highway 173 South in times of heavy usage. "The park could also stand to have another nice entrance at 8th Street that could be utilized by the general public," he said.
Barwick noted, "Traffic backup is only going to get worse."
Parking was also discussed with Mayor Clark advocating angled-in parking on Maple Street. According to Strickland, this would also help during special events.
"Angled parking, rather than head-in parking, is best for safety reasons," Barwick said.
To Glenn Clark's question about whether the "bamboo lot" could be cleared and used as a parking lot, Mayor Clark answered in the affirmative.
Strickland recommended making the park proper off-limits to vehicles at the river's edge. "People can park in fields," she said.
When Mayor Clark replied that enforcement of parking would cost the city more money, Stickland countered, "Just put up signs and cables around the green belt."
Barwick expected to have the draft concept plan completed in about 45 days, at which time another meeting would be announced.