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There are 59 parks and recreation-related projects slated to receive funding through the City’s 2017-2022 Bond Program – that is, if the projects worth a total of $116 million are approved by voters during the May 2017 election as part of the total $850 million bond package. First, the preliminary project list must go through the Citizen Bond Committee process over the next three months, then City Council will finalize and vote in January on the list that will be turned over to voters.
There are 30 members to each of the five committees. Committee members serve in a purely advisory role as they collaborate in composing a list of tweaks and trade-outs for Council members to consider. Click here for a full list of the 160 committee members who were appointed by the mayor and City Council.
Several projects were highlighted by citizens that signed up to speak during the first Parks, Recreation & Open Space Committee meeting Monday night including Hemisfair’s Civic Park, Hardberger Park, Brackenridge Park, Dignowity/Lockwood, and Maverick Dog Park – but chief among them was the proposed $2 million allocation to help Capital Park Little League build an $8 million ballpark in MacAllister Park.
Out of the approximately 115 meeting attendees, about one dozen people that live in District 10 near the park, spoke out against the allocation which would flatten natural greenspace and six miles of trails in the 976-acre park that currently has about 16 athletic fields.
Residents pointed out that the field would only be used by the nonprofit Capital Park Little League and would, thus, only be a public park in the sense that the public would be able to purchase tickets to the games. The league plans on finding private donors to raise the remaining $6 million for the field. Its current field at Bulverde Road and Wurzbach Parkway is being redeveloped after 56 years by Zachry Corporation, which owns the property owner.
McAllister Park itself is not on the list of proposed projects for this bond cycle.
“We asked for approximately $5 million to cover all the items we did not get from the previous (2012) bond fund and for (other) future renovations,” Laura Matthews, president of Friends of McAllister Park, told the committee.
McAllister Park, orignially called Northeast Preserve, was purchased with 1964 bond funds and a federal Open Space Grant, according to the City’s website.
The federal money was for “open use, public land,” said John Banks, Jr., a member of Friends of McAllister Park and South Texas Off Road Mountain-Bikers (STORM.). “It was purchased as a preserve, to be kept natural.”
Capital Park officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but the league’s board President Rob Foster told the San Antonio Express-News that “it’s not us against them.” He added that he hopes to find a home for the league without interfering with existing park land.
“When I met with the Friends of McAllister Park, cycling group S.T.O.R.M., and other park users last week, it was clear that they did not support a project that disrupted McAllister Park’s natural trail system,” stated Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) in a newsletter to constituents. “As a result, our office, the Parks Department, and (Transportation and Capital Improvements) are in the process of finding the little league a different place to build their fields.”
City Manager Sheryl Sculley was coordinating with those departments and Gallagher during the meeting via text on Monday, she told the Rivard Report after the three-hour long meeting.
City staff and Gallagher’s office will work with Capital Park Little League on a location and to see if there “are other funds available within our park allocation to help and do some improvements to McAllister Park,” Sculley said. “We’ll try to come up with some alternative solutions for the committee to consider.”
City staff has already identified some other vacant land parcels in the district, she said, and is working on cost estimates for new projects and proposals brought up during the meeting.
The “rough proportionality” of the bond – or how evenly bond money is spread throughout each Council district – is also monitored by staff.
Some committee members questioned how City staff concludes that a park belongs in the “citywide” category, meaning that a park is to benefit the city as a whole instead of a single neighborhood or district. The baseball field at McAllister Park, for instance, is marked as a citywide project.
Sculley said she would provide the committee with a list of justifications for the 15 parks that fall into the citywide category including Hemisfair, Woodlawn Lake, and Hardberger Park, as well as San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Pedro Creek, and others.
About 48% of the bond is made up of those “citywide, transformational projects” said Transportation and Capital Improvements Director Mike Frisbie, who gave the committee a brief overview of the 59 preliminary projects.
This is Sculley’s third bond cycle with the City of San Antonio.
“This is one of the biggest (turnouts) we’ve had,” she said. The meeting was scheduled for 6-8 p.m., but procedural delays and clarifications for the public and committee members stretched the meeting on until 9 p.m. By the time the meeting concluded, the audience had shrunk by about half its size.
Citizens that signed up to speak but had to leave before their turn, Sculley suggested to the committee, should be given priority at the next meeting as should newcomers that have not had a chance to voice their concerns.
Top image: City Manager Sheryl Sculley discusses the priorities set by City Council and SA Tomorrow for the 2017-2022 bond. Photo by Scott Ball.