By SEAN BATURA
While San Marcos residents may be dismayed by the presence of barricades, barbed wire and the other earmarks of a construction site at Prospect Park, those who were among the park’s founders say it amounts to a trade-off allowing the park to be built in the first place.
The city established the park after local residents came together in 2001 opposing a plan to build more than 600 apartment units in the area. San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance President Todd Derkacz said his organization was forged in the crucible of a struggle to preserve that open space in the city.
However, the group backed the Wonder World Drive Extension Project when the city acquired most of the land and agreed to use it for park space.
“While ordinarily you wouldn’t find a group like ours supporting such a project, we understood at the time that a trade-off was going to happen,” Derkacz said. “We understood very clearly that need for a bypass around San Marcos. I’m a retired fire chief, so I understand the importance of getting that traffic out of the downtown for safety reasons, if (for) no other.”
Thus, city’s $26.2 million Wonder World Drive project is winding through Prospect Park. Residents attempting to enter Purgatory Creek Park via Prospect Park will encounter no-trespassing signs warding them from the construction zone where Wonder World Drive is to be connected with Ranch Road 12.
Those undeterred by the signage will have to contend with a chest-high barbed wire fence running along the planned route of the extension, which is intended to re-route vehicles that would otherwise clog downtown San Marcos and residential neighborhoods near the Hopkins Street Historic District.
Residents may access Purgatory Creek Park’s 463 acres via the entrance at the end of Franklin Street off of North Bishop Street.
Purgatory Creek Park and Prospect Park lie in an area where the Edwards Aquifer is replenished through surface water seepage. The Edwards Aquifer serves as a water source for 1.7 million people.
Consequently, public officials say, any construction plans for the area must include optimal drainage arrangements. Derkacz said runoff from a modest rain in the area can also make its way down Purgatory Creek into the San Marcos River. Derkacz stressed the importance of also instituting measures allowing for the capture of hazardous materials spilled from vehicles driving on the new leg of Wonder World Drive.
“We have to go above and beyond what you’d see on a typical roadway,” said Sabas Avila, interim director of the City of San Marcos Capital Improvement’s Department. “We’ll actually have sedimentation and filtration ponds that filter and clean the runoff from the roadway before discharging into the creek.”
With the construction, Prospect Park no longer is quite the green space retreat to which people have grown accustomed. But there are those who will say it still beats 600 apartments, roadway or not.
“We understood that part of the possibility of having Purgatory Creek Park … was that we would also see part of it segmented by the elevated flyway for Wonder World Drive,” Derkacz said. “So there was a trade-off there. But we think, in the end, it’s the kind of trade-off that helps us move forward.”Email | Print