Highland Village embarks on $18M vision for Copperas Branch Park

Copperas Branch Park could be the target of up to $18 million in capital investments as the city of Highland Village looks to improve on the regional park. (Courtesy city of Highland Village)
Copperas Branch Park could be the target of up to $18 million in capital investments as the city of Highland Village looks to improve on the regional park. (Courtesy city of Highland Village)

Copperas Branch Park could be the target of up to $18 million in capital investments as the city of Highland Village looks to improve on the regional park. (Courtesy city of Highland Village)

Tucked away in a hard-to-reach corner of Highland Village, a lakeside park has attracted renewed interest during the pandemic.

Throughout a year when many people were cooped up at home and health officials were warning that indoor activities carried greater risk of viral spread, the city watched traffic at Copperas Branch Park rise by more than 140% over that of the previous year, Parks & Recreation Director Phil Lozano said.

The city is looking to build on that interest with a series of capital investments over the next two decades that would upgrade some of the park’s most popular features and add a bevy of new recreational options.

Highland Village City Council approved a master plan Feb. 23 that outlines roughly $18 million of planned improvements to Copperas Branch Park, which is located southwest of where I-35E crosses Lewisville Lake.

“We’re in a marathon here,” Lozano said. “The fact is that there’s been an adopted vision. There is no immediate time frame. There’s not an immediacy to get everything done.”

If every project outlined in the plan were approved, it would represent one of the biggest efforts Highland Village has undertaken to upgrade its parks infrastructure in years—greater, even, than the city’s recent project at Doubletree Ranch Park, Lozano said.

However, not all the projects outlined in the plan are guaranteed to occur, and the city does not expect that it would have to foot the entire bill, Lozano said.

“We are a small community,” Lozano said. “We’re going to look at phasing this out [over time] and capturing every grant program that’s out there.”

A more vibrant asset

The vision for the park’s future outlines a number of new features—including many that came about through extensive public feedback sessions—in which the city may invest, from trails to athletic courts and other concepts.

Improvements would also be made to the park’s most popular attractions, including a redesigned sand swim beach and a relocated boat ramp that would operate more effectively as water levels rise and fall on Lewisville Lake.

These investments would be anchored by a new $3.5 million civic building in the heart of the park’s northern side.

Brad Moulton, principal at La Terra Studio, a Dallas-based design and planning firm, helped the city conduct the master planning process.

One of the more novel proposals, Moulton told council members in February, would be to make use of parkland underneath I-35E by constructing new athletic fields, courts, batting cages or even a skate park.

“Really, no other park in the metroplex area has this much found shade or found shelter underneath a transportation corridor, much less something that could be usable,” Moulton said at the work session.

The plan also calls for a sloped event lawn that would overlook the lake. This versatile space could host a number of different types of events, including fireworks shows.

Copperas Branch Park would also see upgrades made to its swim beach, although Moulton said he anticipates that the beach will continue to require maintenance each time it floods.

“When it floods, [the sand] does go away, and it needs to be replenished,” Moulton said.

Closures and challenges

For several years, the Texas Department of Transportation had shut down Copperas Branch Park as construction crews used the land to park cars and equipment for the state’s work on the southbound lanes of I-35E, Lozano said.

TxDOT compensated the city for the impact to the park, and the money obtained from this agreement helped fund the city’s newest community park development at Doubletree Ranch, Lozano said.

Officials believe it is possible the state may again use this land at Copperas Branch Park as a staging area for future highway projects.

Mayor Charlotte Wilcox said the investments outlined in the master plan may provide not only new recreational opportunities but also additional leverage as the city works with TxDOT officials in the future.

“If they come, we can negotiate at that point,” Wilcox said in a Feb. 9 discussion with staff.

The plan to conduct the work in phases over a period of time that could extend well past a decade provided reassurance to City Council Member Jon Kixmiller.

“I love the plan,” Kixmiller said in the February work session. “It’s more than I could have even envisioned, having walked [the park]. And seeing all the ideas come through—it’s beautiful. It’s also expensive.”

In the near term, city officials are prioritizing four of the plan’s components: the boat dock, the civic building, the event lawn and another point overlooking the lake, Lozano said.

Other proposals in the master plan will be reevaluated on an ongoing basis, Lozano said.

“There’s a key thing to remember here with a master plan: a master plan is a vision,” Lozano said. “It’s not set in stone.”