A new park called River Ranch County Park planned to be built between Leander and Liberty Hill is expected to be on par in quality with some state parks, said one of the designers of the park.
Steven Spears, a principal with Design Workshop, presented Phase 1 of the master plan for the approximately 1,000-acre park to Commissioners Court on
Jan. 12. Design Workshop is the landscape, architecture and planning firm assisting with the project. Phase 1 is expected to open July 2017.
Spears compared the caliber of the upcoming park to Pedernales Falls, Lost Maples and Bastrop state parks.
“This property is state park-quality,” Spears said. “We believe the market for you all is of a state park magnitude even though it is a county park, and I think that’s something you should be proud of and applaud.”
The park will have entrances off CR 282 and Bagdad Road, said Randy Bell, Williamson County director of parks
The consultant team for the project comprises civil engineering firm Binkley & Barfield, architecture firm McKinney/York Architecture and equestrian facilities design firm Lynn Long Planning and Design.
The county purchased the property in 2008 with $10 million in bond funds approved by voters in 2006. Spears said he expects Phase 1 to cost about $6.5 million to
$7 million. However, the firm has not yet released cost estimates. The county plans to fund the project with the $40 million in park bond funds approved by voters in 2013.
The property has 11 miles of existing trails, and 85 percent of those will be repurposed, Spears said.
“Those are already used and in pretty good conditions; they will need some cleaning up and rerouting, but for the most part it’s a good set of trails,” he said. “There’s no need to spend money building what’s already been built.”
The master plan includes 12.5 miles of hiking trails, 7.5 miles of equestrian trails, overnight camping and primitive camping areas, pavilions, a clubhouse, park facilities and management space, and bathrooms.
Spears said the vision is to create a park destination that serves a wide variety of users, demographics and communities, and connects people to the natural and scenic qualities of the site.
“I think that’s really important in the day and age that we’re in right now in 2016 where we’re actually seeing children less connected to nature than we’ve ever seen before,” he said.