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Will this park plan sit on shelf, too?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photos: Courtesy of Paul Barwick
This conceptual drawing shows plans and placement for Phase 1 of the updating of Bandera City Park.

Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Paul Barwick

During a second open meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, park planner Paul Barwick presented a preliminary conceptual plan for Bandera City Park.
The meeting, held at the community room at the Bandera Electric Cooperative on Highway 16 North, drew a handful of Bandera residents, elected officials and other stakeholders. "You have a real jewel here, a water source cutting through the center of town," Barwick said.
At the same time, however, he acknowledged the river's potential for flooding, saying, "Nothing's easy, especially in a floodplain, but you gotta start somewhere." He also cautioned against inaction due a threat of flooding. "Nothing can prevent flooding, especially with more growth going on upstream," Barwick said.
The Bandera Economic Development Corporation (EDC) hired Barwick last spring to update a 2002 plan for City Park. Since then, he spent a lot of time in the park talking with visitors, noting, "Everyone loved the park in general." Barwick advised stakeholders to create a niche park and not overlap amenities that other parks offer.
Referencing past park plans from 1987, 2002 and 2009 now languishing "on a shelf somewhere," Barwick said, "We're at the point when you have to do something." Barwick concentrated on Phase 1 of the project, which stretched from Highway 173 to 8th Street, by the so-called bamboo lot and the Boys & Girls Club facility. Designated as the Event and Vendor Area, this area of the park would be used most frequently.
Other portions slated for later development include the Operations and Interpretive Area. Located beyond the Boys& Girls Club, this would include open walking spaces. The Family and Group Activity Area would include a pavilion, restrooms, a proposed skate park and BMX trail, as well as playing fields. The Natural Area where "nature would be allowed to do its thing" would be earmarked for disk golf and an expanded trail system for viewing birds and wildlife. The last area, located across the river, would be devoted to fishing and swimming.
In the first phase of the park development, water, electricity and sewer utilities would have crucial. According to Barwick's assessment, the Event and Vendor Area should include a new restroom facility, concession building, fee collection booth, earth amphitheater, picnic area, playground with covered canopy, a set of smaller bathroom facilities, roads and sidewalks tying the park to "Old Town" and appropriate signage.
Barwick proposed parking on Maple Street, in addition to constructing lots at the front of the park facing 173 and across from the BGC. Signage would point visitors to a secondary entrance and the parking at 8th Street. The primary entrance would be directly down 11th Street into the park.
City Councilman Suzanne Schauman suggested converting the secondary park entrance the primary entrance during major events.
A current road paralleling the river would be closed, but a second road closer to the fence would remain open. "We need to protect the river," Barwick said. "The days of fishing out of the back of a pickup truck are gone."
Construction of an earthen amphitheater would follow the contours of the land, Barwick said. Terraced seating would face the river allowing a slab or flatbed truck to serve as a portable stage. People would bring their own blankets and chairs. "These kinds of simple outdoor venues have worked well at the Witte Museum and in Boerne and Helotes," Barwick said.
He noted that the US Army Corps of Engineers would have to be consulted before any construction began and electricity must be available for the stage and security lighting.
Studying the schematic of Phase 1, a concerned citizen opined that the park was "too commercial."
When asked what made the area "too commercial," the woman said, "The picnic tables."
Barwick noted that the number of picnic tables had not been increased, merely pulled away from the riverbank and grouped together. "You can put them wherever you like," he said. Barwick then pointed out that closing the lower road and grouping the tables would increase the available open space in the area.
Another suggestion was to place larger restrooms by the playground and pavilions with smaller ones designated for the front of the park. Barwick indicated he would incorporate the recommendations before presenting the plan to EDC.
Although the $1.6 million price tag for Phase 1 seemed daunting, Barwick called it a "doable number," based on current costs of regional parks. He said that grants were available as well as possible funding from the city and EDC. He also noted, "The city will have to have some skin in the game." He also suggested that Phase 1 could be completed incrementally.
"The city, EDC and citizens have to make a decision on what makes sense," Barwick said. He added that the city and EDC should form an action group for recommendations for Phase 1 before hiring a professional to begin implementation and seek out funding.
"This is exciting," Barwick said. "In 2002, I thought we had a shot at something, but that fizzled. In my lifetime, I'd like to see something get going here."