WP reveals top recreation priorities for parks

Director of Land Planning for Pacheco Koch Eric Wilhite, left, addresses Willow Park residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

Willow Park officials and the parks steering committee revealed the top recreation priorities from a resident survey for the city’s first ever Parks Master Plan at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

“This is a document that we want to create that we can use for guidance for current and future city administrations and city councils. A parks and recreation plan is a living document — once things are accomplished and done, you want to go back and reevaluate periodically usually every five years,” Director of Land Planning for Pacheco Koch Eric Wilhite said. “In the end, around August when we complete it, it will be a written document that shows the guiding principles and other information about what’s desired.”

The top seven priorities based on the 405 residents that participated in the survey were a playground, walk/bike trails, a nature area, picnic tables/facility, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts and a splash pad. 

Parks Steering Committee member and Place 1 Council Member Lea Young said a playground being the No. 1 priority is doable in a shorter timeframe rather than starting off with a 15-mile trail system.

“If you do something smaller you can do quality, fund some maintenance and do something as opposed to a 15-mile trail system right away. The council is looking at coming up with some funding options quickly to get something moving on that,” Young said. “Then we’re using the master plan for trails and parks to kind of come up with a longer term in how we can come up with more funding for a whole system over two to five years. So the council is looking at ways to get something jump started quickly, knowing we’ve been sitting around without a playground for a while.”

Wilhite said there are options for receiving grant money for a master parks plan if the plan is adopted as a city ordinance.

“The parks and recreation trail system master plan is an adopted ordinance by the city council. It has to be done if you want to get certain grant funding sources, especially Texas Parks and Wildlife. So this is going to be done in a format that’s acceptable to Texas Parks and Wildlife, and it will be submitted to them for review and compliance,” Wilhite said. “Then, when the opportunity comes to do a parkland acquisition or facility development, they have up to $500,000 matching grants from Texas Parks and Wildlife. There’s also funding through COG [and] the Texas Parks and Wildlife trail grant.”

Having businesses or individuals sponsoring pieces of park equipment is also a possibility, but would be something discussed later on, WP Assistant City Manager Bernie Parker said. 

Once you establish the parks system, then there are different ways of funding it, so yes, [sponsorships] have definitely been talked about,” Parker said. “But again, that’s down the road once we get a park plan.”

Young said the whole idea is to get feedback from residents and then see about funding opportunities.

“We wanted the citizens to determine what we need and then we would go out and see how can we help fund that. We don’t want someone coming in saying, ‘here’s $100,000 for this because that’s what we want,’ and have it not be beneficial for the citizens,” Young said. “So the idea being, let’s do a plan and a survey and get the feedback, then we can present it and see where the opportunities are for funding and certainly local businesses and donors are be a big part of what we hope to see come come into the entire process.”

Adding to that, Wilhite said the funding portion is why a city comes up with a master plan.

“This is why you want a master parks and trails systems master plan,” Wilhite said. “Then you have something to show them — something you thought about and had input from the citizens, you have a guiding document for that implementation into the development phase.”

The survey was mailed and posted online for residents at the beginning of the year and the steering committee, as well as WP officials, will move forward with documenting the plan for future action. 

For more information visit willowpark.org