The Willow Park city council heard an update on Cross Timbers Park Tuesday night and was presented two options to look over — one at the budgeted cost of $500,000 and another with added amenities for $1.1 million.

The park will be on property next to the new Willow Park Public Safety Building — the land where the old public safety building was demolished at the intersection of Ranch House Road and Stagecoach Trail.

“A parks and trail master plan was done for the city in 2019, it was finalized in October, and the top priorities that were identified in that were a playground, walk and bike trails, nature area, picnic facilities and basketball courts, to round out the top five,” Pacheco Koch engineering firm Landscape Architect Dorothy Witmeyer said. “After that master plan process was complete and approved, the city decided to move forward with the new project that would implement some of those top priorities — namely a playground, in response to citizens’ input.”

Witmeyer said a site analysis was done looking at the opportunities and constraints and from there they started to proceed with the construction documents.

“Some of those findings were, you have a playground for the site but then what else contributes to that playground and that experience for all users and ages? And the No. 1 consideration to start was parking. So we factored in the parking lot and then we have additional layers — you have kids on the playground, but what will improve [others] experience? So we started looking at shade, seating, a walking path and then just beautification of the site,” Witmeyer said. “Then you factor in the duration, how long will they stay there? So you start to put in water, lighting, restrooms, so you can then see how all these layers start to develop.”

Witmeyer presented two park options to the council for review. Option 1 stays within the city’s budget of $500,000 and includes a paved parking lot with 18 spaces and two playgrounds, one for ages 2 to 5 and another for ages 5 to 12. Option 2 goes beyond the city’s budget to $1.1 million and includes everything from Option 1, but also an enhanced planting area, soft surface trail, concrete walking trail, gathering lawn, public restroom, shade structure, picnic area and enhanced entry signage.

WP Place 2 Councilmember Amy Fennell asked if the city had looked into grant funding for Cross Timbers Park.

“So the reason for us to purchase a park study to begin with, one of the reasons, was so we could apply for grants and I was part of that original steering committee and asked Pacheco Koch if that’s something they could help us with,” Fennell said.

Pacheco Koch Land Planner and Urban Designer Eric Wilhite said with this particular project, they haven’t looked at applying for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant because of its score on the grant criteria.

“If in the future you apply for a grant on another piece of property, say for parks, we think there’s an opportunity to combine this one with that because you’re providing more recreational opportunities and maybe tie that into that park development as well to help with the scoring criteria,” Wilhite said. “It was the $1.1 million and you added more trails and more opportunities to it, then it might be more competitive.”

WP Assistant City Manager Bernie Parker said staff recommendation was to go with the $500,000 option for Cross Timbers Park.

“The staff is recommending to stay with the $500,000 since you already have the funds and go ahead and do Option 1. The whole thought process when we started this was that we were going to look at this in phases. We were being a good steward of the money that we had — trying to have a plan in place for the future if you wanted to come back and seek additional funding through council or any other means — but what we had at the time was half a million to build the park and staff is recommending to go that route and not add any additional debt to do the $1.1 million,” Parker said. “If you wanted to go and do the $1.1 million [option], you would have to issue additional debt to do that. I know there’s been discussions of additional parks within the city and through that we will seek funding through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”

Place 4 Councilmember Lea Young said the priority was to get a playground in place since the previous one was torn down.

“We’re presenting the Cross Timbers Park playground and we very much wanted to act on a playground quickly because we lost the old playground when we constructed [the new public safety building], so that was a priority item,” Young said. “It’s not the type of thing that scores highly for grants so we wanted to do something that we could get going — we could get a parks program established and have a reputation — so that if we have other areas that we want to do other park areas, we’ve already established that we’re committed to it, we funded a playground, a park, and we could go back and do grant funding on something else later.”

Because the Cross Timbers Park update was a discussion only, no action was taken on either option. The item will be brought back to the council at a future meeting. 

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