What About the Future of Tom Green County Parks?
Shortly after Monday night’s public meeting dealing with county parks, the Commissioners’ Court discussed the near future of the parks. The meeting on Monday night was held in order to get a grasp on public opinion and make plans concerning the Parks Master Plan--a plan intended to make improvements of the park. The plan will then be sent to Texas Parks and Wildlife, who will hopefully supply a grant for county parks.
“We had a lengthy session [gathering] input from the public, which are one of several coming up until we can get all our ducks in a row for all the proposals for the 8 parks that we have in the county,” Tom Green County Commissioner Bill Ford (Pct. 4) said. “I was really surprised; we got a lot of headway last night. We sure have got some beautiful parks that are part of the county, so we’ve got some work to do.”
Recently recognized Master Plan Committee Members, who are helping to lead the charge in gathering public opinion, were also present at Commissioners’ Court.
“Of the eight parks, it sounds like at least five or six of them are heavily used,” County Master Plan Committee Member Silvia Pate said. “These are not quietly sitting pieces of property that no one cares about; they are actually attracting a lot of attention.”
Just before the July 4 weekend, LIVE! toured the three of the county parks, all within Precinct 4, with Commissioner Bill Ford. He explained that the county allocates just $10,000 annually for park maintenance. The rest of the money has come from grants. There is no system in place to generate enough recurring revenue for upkeep of the parks because the county budget is tight. Ford is pushing the county commissioners to consider other funding options.
Pate is an advocate for economic development in the county and owns business interests in Christoval.
Pate added, “I’ve understood, through either some media or through conversation, that the Commissioners’ Court is not completely sure that you want to be in the parks business. I would just challenge you to answer for yourselves if you choose not to make improvements to the parks, what happens to them?”
Perhaps Pate was referring to the recent meeting in which the commissioners were deadlocked in their vote to fund inspections of the parks. County Judge Steve Floyd was not present at the meeting to break the tie vote. In that meeting, Commissioner Aubrey deCordova said, “Parks are nice to have, but I think we have a lot more expenses that come before the parks.”
“I don’t think anybody said that we don’t want to be in the parks business,” Floyd said. “I think the challenge has been [that] several of us here have lived through the area where, because of budgeting constraints, we had nearly eliminated the parks except for a very basic level of maintenance. We now have an opportunity to move forward a little bit with the situation.”
Floyd explained that he hopes private parties will contribute to funding the county parks in a similar fashion to the way third parties contributed to funding the library.
“[With] a county of this size, it would just nearly be impossible for them to support this size of a library without that private money,” Floyd said. “That’s what I’m hoping we’re looking for: those alliances and participation in the various respective areas to get parks beyond [what] we can’t do it off dedicated property tax rate.”
Alma Camarillo, another Parks Master Plan Committee Member, also spoke to the commissioners.
"I know that in our discussion last night, one of the things that was brought up was that we need to revitalize our community parks that we have, but we also need to be looking at those areas that may require a new establishment of a county park,” Camarillo said. “One of those areas I know is the Grape Creek community location. The quality of life, the different areas that a well-maintained park brings into the established location is a win-win situation. Once the parks have been brought up to code and safety regulations have been revitalized, you are going to see an increase in the revenue that’s going to be coming into the county. How are you going to be handling that and administrating those particular funds?
“One of the things that we discussed is [an] RV establishment and maybe upgrading some of the RV sites that exist today. My question is the administration part of once those grants come into Tom Green County, how are they going to be designated and maintained?”
The next public meeting concerning county parks is on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. in the Sugg Room of the Stephens County Library downtown. For more about county parks, check out San Angelo LIVE!’s previous articles.