The Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department is working to transform one of its parks into an area for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels—an estimated $50 million concept officials say is the first of its kind in the U.S.
In June the Grapevine City Council approved the parks and recreation department’s updated parks master plan, which lays out the vision for Rockledge Park to potentially feature a variety of archery ranges, which would be the primary focus of Rockledge Park, Kevin Mitchell, Grapevine parks and recreation director, said at an Economic Development Partnership meeting in March. Other elements included in the concept plan are shooting ranges, marine activities and a mountain bike skills course, along with educational components.
The park is still conceptual and has not gone through the actual construction design phase, meaning park elements could change. Mitchell said this expansion is planned to be a joint partnership between the city of Grapevine and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.
“For us Rockledge Park is an incredible opportunity to partner with a municipality that understands how important it is to get people outdoors doing things that they enjoy,” TPWD Program Coordinator Renán Zambrano said. “The vision that the city of Grapevine has laid out for this site will be a first-of-its-kind in the Metroplex, and we are excited to work with them on this first phase to develop an outdoor archery center in the middle of a Metroplex where 6.6 million people live and 48 million people visit every year.”
The park is awaiting funding to initiate the first phase of the project, which officials said could come as soon as August or September.
The department has applied for a $5 million federal grant from the TPWD to help begin the process to transform the park.
Mitchell said approving the overall master plan was a crucial part of helping the department make a strong case for funding.
“If I am going to the state to apply for a grant, they want to make sure that our master plan is current,” he said. “If it’s not current then we will automatically be rejected for those grant funds.”
Should the city be approved for the federal grant, Mitchell said the department will request Grapevine City Council approve Phase 1 of the Rockledge Park plan, which is projected to take about two years to complete. There are stipulations of what the grant can and cannot be used for, which TPWD will dictate.
Mitchell said a strategy is in place to use other grants and foundations to fund the remaining $45 million of the Rockledge Park project in the future.
“It’s a unique park … it kind of stands alone as a statement park, and that’s what this will be,” Mitchell said. “In our minds, [Rockledge Park] was the perfect location for something like this.”
A lost art
According to research from the 2016 Archery Trade Association’s participation report, 21.6 million Americans age 18 and older participated in archery activities in 2015. A similar study from the 2017 Sports & Fitness Industry Association shows a 22 percent increase since 2011 in archery participants.
“Our citizen surveys show there is local interest in the sport as well, so we hope to offer more archery opportunities,” Mitchell said in an email.
This was something that impressed Grapevine Chamber of Commerce CEO RaDonna Hessel when she heard the concept plan for Rockledge Park.
“[Archery] is one of those things that is kind of a lost art in our country. … It was fun to see that somebody is doing something for the future by bringing something from the past back,”
Jim Faver, the owner of Gateway Archery in Fort Worth, said he is positive some of his patrons would visit Grapevine to use the archery ranges and participate in events.
“Thirty minutes is nothing; our folks travel several hours [to shoot],” he said.
He said an annual archery tournament called the Easton Southwest Shoot Out takes place in Paris, Texas, and involves the “average Joe” archer as well as the professional archers who shoot all over the world. He said the event brings in several million dollars a year to the city.
“They have it in Paris, Texas, and there’s nothing wrong with Paris, Texas, except it does not have the venues that the DFW Metroplex does,” Faver said. “When they have [archery facilities]in the area, people go and visit the extra shops around, and you’re bringing the archery community together.”
Pursuing a partnership
The partnership between the city of Grapevine and the TPWD is a key component of the park’s expansion, officials said. The plan is for the TPWD to office in Rockledge Park, and their educators will oversee the outdoor training areas.
“This [project]fits perfectly with our mission to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations,” Zambrano said.
The location of Rockledge Park, tucked between North Dallas and Fort Worth with a diverse population, is also an asset to the TPWD, he said.
“We can offer access to programs and projects that serve several
traditionally underrepresented user groups, including women, children and minorities,” Zambrano said.
When Mitchell made one of his first presentations on the park to the Grapevine City Council in June 2015, the plan was met with favor.
“The thing that’s great about it is the educational concept, where kids can learn and adults can learn as well,” then-Council Member Shane Wilbanks said. “It is bringing the outdoors to people who have not experienced that before and giving them an opportunity to learn what it’s all about and learn from somebody with expertise. I think it’s a great program.”
The programs in the master plan that the TPWD anticipates offering would include regular classes in archery, bow hunting, angler education, boater education and hunter education.
Parks Master Plan
The department’s master plan exists to help staff and the city identify how the parks system should operate, Mitchell said.
“We really wanted to think about the person and the programs that we want to offer the people,” Mitchell said. “This master plan really takes a deep dive into not only the physical, tangible assets … of a park system, but also the people that live in Grapevine and how we can better serve them or things that we need to serve them.”
The master plan includes general recommendations, such as updates to boat ramps, improving existing landscape medians, adding multipurpose practice fields, creating looped trails, adding new restrooms and replacing outdated playgrounds. Specific park-by-park recommendations are included, as well as facility, trail and boat ramp recommendations.
Mitchell said his priorities for the master plan include addressing a surveyed request for more special needs programs and more programs for adults 55 and older. He said the department plans to add more adaptive recreation classes to incorporate fitness. A special needs sports league is also being examined for spring 2019. For the active adults, Mitchell said a new workout station will be added to The REC courtyard to hold more fitness classes geared specifically toward this age group.
Hessel said there is a direct relationship between a healthy parks system and a thriving economy.
“It’s kind of amazing that any park improvement affects business,” she said. “Companies that come in need to have employees, and to have employees you need to have a community that employees want to live in and be in. Now especially there’s a huge emphasis on health and fitness and environment, and parks are just a piece