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City crafting first parks plan in 7 years

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The Parks and Recreation department unveiled a new master plan at a town hall meeting Nov. 8. The year-long plan is the first since 2010. As part of the plan, the city has hired HALFF, an architectural and engineering consulting firm out of Dallas.

HALFF is offering surveys to both residents and non-residents on the city’s website to gain insight into the community’s view of the Parks and Recreation department. The company hopes to use the data to compile feedback of the current advantages and disadvantages within the current parks, recreation programs and facilities, as well as the trails and riverfront areas throughout the city. As of Nov. 8, the survey had over 700 respondents.

Among HALFF’s goals are: to better facilitate the master-plan process, provide an unbiased view, add to the city’s toolbox of solutions and to challenge the community to strive to be more involved in their parks.

This will be HALFF’s third major project in which they have helped to create a master plan for a city’s parks and recreation department. Past cities include Buda and Killeen.

Many in attendance at the town hall were representatives from HALFF, including Matt Bucchin, director of planning.

“The planning process is the easy part, it’s the implementation that’s important,” Bucchin said. “From my standpoint, if I could put down the community’s words into text that leads them to make change for the betterment of the community, then we’ve been successful.”

Some members of the parks board, a nine-person group which helps to advise the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, also attended and expressed their views. Issues ranging from lack of access east of I-35, to proposing parking fees for non-city residents, to environmental concerns were brought up.

Many parks areas east of I-35 have fallen into disarray over the years, while parks west of I-35 have better maintenance and conditions.

“From a safety standpoint I think it would be great to rebuild Cape’s Dam,” Brian Olson, park board member and Texas State graduate said. “Rebuilding Capes Dam and renovating the Mill Race would be able to make it be the number sixth Dam on the National Register of Historic Places in the state of Texas.”

Both HALFF and the city are hopeful that community residents will voice their opinions. The surveys will remain online and available to all.

“My hope is that we get enough community involvement into the process that helps provide vision for us in how we develop our parks,” Drew Wells, Parks and Recreation assistant director, said.