Improvements, two new parks planned
With the recent acquisition of 90 acres of parkland to serve as the city's west side park, the Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department expects to begin planning for a variety of parks projects.
City Council approved issuing $5 million in general obligation bonds April 23 for park improvements as part of a $35.5 million parks and recreation bond package approved by voters in 2008.
Since 2008, the city had issued about $2.5 million worth of the parks and recreation bonds to pay for various improvements and projects.
"[The council] has been cautious with the tax rate and the impact of the bonds," said Kimberly Garrett, Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department director. "We've brought them the projects every year, but it has always been a matter of not wanting to impact the tax rate."
West side park
On Feb. 26, City Council approved $1.4 million for the purchase of the west side parkland, located along Berry Creek near Shell Road.
"It was time to kick some of these [projects] off," Assistant City Manager Laurie Brewer said. "We had been talking about purchasing land for the west side park we knew identifying a tract that large that was going to be able to mirror San Gabriel Park on the west side, if we didn't start now, [would be difficult]."
Brewer said with the upturn in the economy, the city wanted to begin looking for a property, which she had expected to take two or three years. However, the city was able to find a willing seller faster than expected, she said.
Garrett said the recent road improvements on Shell Road and Hwy. 195 near the park are an asset and will make accessing the new park easier for residents.
"The location worked out, with the opportunity for growth around that location in the next three to five years," she said. "It's going to be a lot more accessible for Georgetown and the people on the west side. We wanted to make sure we had good roads to the park."
The parkland includes several natural features that make it similar to San Gabriel Park, Garrett said, including parts of Berry Creek that run through the property.
"There is nothing like [San Gabriel Park] on the west side," Garrett said. "We wanted the water and the open space."
The park could include sports fields, trails and picnic areas based on what was previously included in the city's parks master plan. A series of public input meetings are planned to help determine what Georgetown residents would like to see in the park.
"The west side park is a long-range plan," Brewer said. "We will start planning what elements will be in it this year. As utility improvements are made, as road improvements are made, that's when we'll start getting closer to actual construction."
Another project that could see design work begin this summer is Garey Park, which will be located off Leander Road about 6 miles west of I-35.
Jack Garey and his wife donated their 525-acre ranch to the city in 2004, and a master plan for the park, which included some conceptual designs, was approved in 2005.
"It's a beautiful ranch that would make an excellent park for people's use for recreation, horseback riding and camping. I've had this ranch 40 years," Garey said. "We wanted the ranch to maintain its character and remain undeveloped. We thought it was such a pretty place with the river on one end and good access on the other that people could enjoy it in perpetuity."
Along with the land, the Gareys donated all structures on the property, including the 6,000-square-foot house, and $5 million in matching funds. In the 2008 bond election, voters approved $10 million for the project.
According to the agreement with the city, the property must remain a park in perpetuity and can never be sold, Garey said.
Garrett said the project will include the city's first equestrian center and equestrian trails, along with possible cabins and a retreat area, primitive camping open space and play structures.
Garey will provide input during the design process, he said.
"It's helpful to have him play a part in the design process," Garrett said. "He knows things about the property that no one else does."
Brewer said the design process could take between 12 and 18 months to complete.
Existing park updates
Garrett said city staff has also been looking at creating a master plan for San Gabriel Park that could include a smaller-scaled amphitheater as well as upgrades to restrooms, pavilions and parking.
"We just want to do upgrades," she said. "The picnic pavilions were built in the early '80s, and we would like to have a signature theme throughout the park and have everything match. We would like everything to blend and master-plan the park so when funds do become available, we have a plan ready to go."
Garrett said the city is looking at stabilizing the bank of the San Gabriel River throughout the park.
"The bank—especially where the two forks of the river come together—it's just eroding away," she said. "It's not a pretty project, but it will enhance the park in the long run. We may be able to do some fishing piers or give back some space for people to walk close to the river."
The stabilization could take about a year to complete, Garrett said, because of the engineering and environmental concerns near the water.
The city also plans to begin work to design upgrades to the 20-year-old Creative Playscape in May. The project is expected to help increase accessibility and address updates to safety standards, Garrett said.
The first meeting would help determine the process and how to include public input on the design.
"We're asking for people who helped design it the first time to help kick off the process," Garrett said. "Later on we'll involve children [to get their input] and have site visits [to see what parts they like most about it]."
Brewer said the city will work with the project's architect to determine what portions of the playscape could be preserved.
"There is artwork and specific elements that make it such a special place, and we want to make sure all of that gets preserved and put it in the new structure," she said.
Construction on the playscape could be completed during the winter months when the structure is used the least.
"It's used year-round, but we will try to lessen the impact as much as we can," Brewer said.