After a series of public meetings, City Park staffers are compiling the ideas they heard for a 250-acre plot formerly slated for a golf course so the park’s Board of Directors can make a decision about for the future of the green space.
City Park’s board met Tuesday evening and heard updates on how the public responded to requests for land ideas. The board – which has final say on what will go on the land – now must incorporate their own ideas and figure out funding.
Park staff held a public workshop earlier this month to gather ideas and input on undeveloped land bounded by Scout’s Island. The land, which encompasses Grow Dat Youth Farm and the Pan American Stadium, is surrounded by the island, I-610, Harrison and Wisner avenues.
Originally planned as a golf course, the nearly 250-acres has contained a hodgepodge of uses; the park’s board is hoping to adapt the master plan so the land has a more purposeful attraction. Two public meetings were held over the last few weeks, but those workshops were meant to give park staff ideas rather than concrete plans.
“The next step is for a committee to offer comments, then the board will offer their input,” said board vice-president Edmund Schrenk. “Going forward, that will give us a document that we can use to raise money.”
An initial meeting in October gave the public a platform to pitch their ideas for the land, which led park staff to draw up three “schemes” for land use. About 120 people attended the second public meeting, which asked people to choose their favorite scheme and list the best and worst things about the unofficial plans.
Rob DeViney, chief operating officer, said City Park staff tried to reinforce that these meetings were just meant to hear different ideas about the empty land, though many attendees might have not realized they “were just one piece of the puzzle.”
“A lot of people seemed to be under the impression that what they thought about was going to be built, regardless of the budget or our needs,” DeViney said.
There’s still several ideas floating around – such as a nature center or restaurant – but the final decision will come from the board. Susan Hess, board president, said the three schemes presented to the public did not contain any input from board members.
Board members were not allowed to suggest any of their ideas before the public workshops; because of the lack of board supervision, the workshopped ideas will most likely be changed into something with more board input, Hess said.
“These are just preliminary, these are just plans, these are not the end resort,” Hess said.
The board has to keep in mind a budget and money-making possibilities for the land, as well as a new and creative use for the lot, board member Will Tregre said. City Park gets about 15 percent of its budget from the city, so the rest must be raised from the park’s attractions and events.
Whatever finally settles on the former golf course land has to be something that can generate funding, board members said. Going forward, park administration has to keep the budget in mind before building anything.
“Right now there’s nothing that’s going to raise money that’ll run this part of the park – so long-term, that’s something we have to think about,” Shrenk said.
Some of that funding may come from public sources, which would again allow the community to pitch their thoughts to City Park staff. Steve Bingler, board member, said the first two public meetings established trust within the community that can be used to help fundraise when the time is right.
John Hopper, City Park public affairs director, said most of the feedback he received from the meetings was positive. Hopper said many people liked feeling involved and appreciated the process, and the meetings gave staff a better idea of what the public wants and needs.
“I think we have to turn the tide back to the community and use it as a chance to get other groups involved,” Bingle said.
City Park staff are combining all responses from the workshops and will present the info on their website next week, Hopper said. Next steps include running ideas through a committee and getting input from the board, then redesignating the area in City Park’s master plan.