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San Marcos secures Hays funds for park projects

Friday, July 25, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

Hays County Commissioners Court approved $3.1 million in park improvements for the City of San Marcos Tuesday on a split vote. The measure passed 3-2 with Commissioner Karen Ford and Judge Liz Sumter voting against it. As Commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Ingalsbe sponsored the agenda item, it fell to Commissioner Jeff Barton to cast the deciding vote.


As the commissioners debated at length over what percentage of the $13 million they would dispense, San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz told the Court that the San Marcos City Council had approved a $3.1 million package, and that was the amount that the county needed to approve.


The split on the court was due to the depleting funds from the parks bond election and the recent motion passed by the court to set aside $13 million for open space and habitat protection. For the sake of that earmark, the court dictated that $1.5 million heading to San Marcos would come out of the $13 million. The City of San Marcos has already committed to fund $5,530,000, which would be funded with a 1.78 to 1 ratio with the county. The entire $3.1 million will complete five different projects.


Purgatory Creek Preserve is 463 acres of open space in the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer already owned by San Marcos. The park is located behind the Hernandez Intermediate School off Ranch Road 12 by San Marcos Dam No. 5. It will receive $1.4 million from San Marcos and $1.6 million from the county to provide “challenge trails,” clearing and additional infrastructure.


Judge Sumter remarked that she thought the $13 million was reserved purely for habitat acquisition and not development, though the statement, proposed by Conley, does not specify acquisition in its wording. Conley argued in favor of the trails and costs necessary to implement the infrastructure that would enable Purgatory’s use, reasoning, “If we’re going to have success in the future going forward buying open space our citizens have to feel like they have access that’s enjoyable to them and their families.”


The 5-Mile Dam Park money will fund the completion of phase two of its development. In addition to more soccer fields, it will have a wildlife observation area, restroom facilities, playscapes, gardens trails and a boat ramp. This park stirred up some consternation with Commissioner Ford because Phase One of the park is still incomplete and over budget by $360,000. Phase Two will receive $700,000 from Hays and $1.15 million from San Marcos.


The Girls Softball fields located at Gary Park, which currently exists of four fields would be doubled with four additional diamonds. According to the City of San Marcos the four fields are currently rented out for tournaments 45 times a year – the added fields are thought to provide an economic benefit to the city as well as increasing the recreational options. Its funding will be split with Hays giving $500,000 and the city $2.4 million. The judge did point out that the softball fields, which sit on the county line, could pose a problem. However, after consulting Counsel Mark Kennedy, the Court was assured there was no legal reason for blocking funding.


The Rio Vista Tennis Courts, at the Rio Vista Park, built in 1974 and currently in disrepair, will be re-surfaced. Of the total cost, $400,000 will come from the city and $200,000 from the county.  The Regional Skate Park, located off Hopkins Street, was championed by six youth in attendance at Commissioners Court. It will receive enough money to build phase two – more bowls and vertical jumps for the very popular park. The funds will be split $180,000 from San Marcos and $100,000 from the County.


Conley championed the entire project, saying this was, “the first project that truly encompasses the full intent of the bond we passed last May.”

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