San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 22nd, 2010
12 projects vie for remaining $3.4M of county bond money

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Hays County Grants Administrator Jeff Hauff unveils the 12 remaining county parks projects attempting to secure some of the remaining money from the 2007 parks bond. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A total of 12 projects, three in San Marcos, are in the running for the remaining $3.4 million of Hays County parks and recreation money from a $30 million bond passed in 2007.

County commissioners tasked the Hays County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board (POSAB) with recommending which projects should be funded with the remaining money.

“We have roughly $3.4 million remaining in park bond funds, so it’s going to be rather stiff competition,” said Hays County Grants Administrator Jeff Hauff. “It certainly demonstrates a need out there for additional park bond monies.”

The three projects proposed for San Marcos involve 135.89 acres of primarily green space near the corner of RR 12 and Craddock Avenue, about 601 acres of green space adjacent to the 463-acre Purgatory Park Greenspace (also known as the Purgatory Creek Natural Area), and 350 acres of land between Staples Road and the San Marcos River, to be later developed into a shooting sports complex and hunter education facility with funds from other sources.

Friends of Craddock Park sponsors the 135.89-acre project, otherwise known as Craddock Park of San Marcos. The group asks for bond funds totaling $2,281,900, which is the estimated total cost of the project. The project consists of aquifer recharge land suitable for hiking trails and related activities, and includes possible habitat suitable for the federally-listed Golden Cheeked Warbler. The land is almost flat and would include four trails, each one tailored to a specific use: walking, running, cycling, and “stroll and roll.” The project includes a rectangular area suitable for football, soccer, and rugby, for instance. The project would include restrooms, parking, water fountains, and playground equipment for children up to age six.

Trust for Public Land (TPL) sponsors the 601-acre project, otherwise known as Expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area, for which TPL asks $950,000. The total estimated cost of the project is $8.95 million. The project consists of aquifer recharge land suitable for hiking trails and related activities, and includes possible Warbler habitat. Depending on the agreement reached with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which may provide some grant funding, access to some portions of the property may be restricted during Warbler nesting season.

The projects sponsored by TPL and Friends of Craddock Park are near one another and feature typical Hill Country vegetation like juniper, cacti, and oak trees.

The City of San Marcos, Hays County, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, and TPL are in discussion to apply for a federal land acquisition grant to purchase a 289-acre parcel included in the aforementioned 601-acre Expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Such a partnership between government entities and a conservation organization would not be new for San Marcos, as the city, county, Texas State and the Nature Conservancy collaborated in 2006 to buy property now comprising Spring Lake Preserve.

Carma Texas agreed earlier this month to contribute $300,000 towards the purchase of the 289- acre tract pursuant to a development agreement with the City of San Marcos. Carma’s pledge would help the company meet the city’s parkland dedication requirements for the 1,340-acre, 3,450-unit Paso Robles development proposed near the intersection of Hunter Road and Centerpoint Road.

The San Marcos City Council approved the Paso Robles development agreement earlier this month. Carma agreed to contribute $300,000 towards acquisition of another tract of land within Hays County if negotiations for the 289 acres are unsuccessful. Pursuant to the development agreement, the alternative piece of property would have to contain “significant” endangered species habitat, karst features and Native American cultural sites to match the quality of the 289-acre parcel.

A nonprofit conservation organization, Texas Shooting Sports Complex (TxSSC), seeks the full remainder of the bond funds for land to build shooting ranges and a hunter education facility on 350 acres between Staples Road and the San Marcos River. The group initially sought 563 acres, much of which was proposed as a park. TxSSC proposes to use grants and donations to pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the shooting sports complex.

TxSSC proposes that the county own all equipment, buildings, and other improvements on the land, and collect all revenue generated from range usage fees. The group’s total estimated project cost is $5 million-plus, according to Hays County Grants Administration.

The other nine projects in the running for the county parks bond funds are as follows (all total project costs are estimates):

* Bear Creek Greenbelt Trail Extension and Neighborhood Park, sponsored by Hays County Water Control and Improvement District No. 2, which asks for $280,000 for the $560,000 project east of Dripping Springs.

* Wimberley Aquatics Recreation Park, sponsored by Swimberley, Inc., which asks for $2 million for the $9,596,443 project in Wimberley.

* Baseball/Softball 2010-2011 Field Improvements for Hope Hanks Park, sponsored by the Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association, which asks for $129,268 for the $258,536 project near Dripping Springs.

* Storm Ranch-Conservation Easement Purchase (352 acres), sponsored by Hill Country Conservancy, which asks for $400,000 for the $2.85 million project near Dripping Springs.

* Skate Park, sponsored by City of Buda, which asks for $150,000 for the $300,000 project.

* Bradfield Park Trail and Trailhead connecting Stagecoach Park, City Park, and downtown Buda, sponsored by City of Buda, which asks for $334,200 for the $668,400 project.

* Whispering Hollow Off-Leash Park, sponsored by City of Buda, which asks for $25,000 for the $50,000 park.

* Hays Youth Sports Complex Improvements, sponsored by Hays County Youth Athletic Association, which asks for $1,478,823 for the $1,605,173 project.

* Harrison Ranch Park, sponsored by the City of Dripping Springs, which asks for $1.7 million for the $3,789,930 project.

Park bond funds requested by the 12 applicants total $13,229,191. The estimated total cost of all the applicants’ projects is $30,910,382.

Eight project sponsors have made presentations before POSAB, which plans to finalize its recommendations on Nov.17 after hearing presentations from the remaining seven applicants. The commissioners court may vote on the project or projects in late November.

Swimberley, Inc., TPL, and Hays County Water Control and Improvement District No. 2 made presentations to POSAB Wednesday night. POSAB plans to hear presentations from TxSSC, Hays County Youth Athletic Association, Hill Country Conservancy, and the Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association on Nov. 3 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the San Marcos Activity Center.

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