Pacific Park was a hot topic among citizens at Tuesday night’s regular City Council meeting. Safety issues and a timely progress of park repairs and renovations were among the prime concerns voiced.
East End Allegiance Our Youth President Bridget Cooper, during the citizens comments portion of the meeting, applauded the City Council for using the sale of property to apply toward the costs of renovations at Pacific Park.
The council approving an architectural firm to design and produce construction drawings for a new H.W. Grays Building was a move closer to seeing much-needed improvements in the park, Cooper said. However, she expressed concerns the project would not be finished as soon as originally projected.
Cooper, EEA member Erica Crook and Brittany Abron asked that the playground equipment be replaced before the building is constructed.
“We would like for the mayor and council to direct the city manger to fund new playground equipment due to serious safety concerns for our children. As you found the courage to find funding for Pacific Park, we ask that you find the same courage to support moving forward with the equipment first. This would definitely show the people of East End community that progress has actually been made outside of City Hall. Seeing is believing,” Cooper said.
Erica Crook, who was born and raised in Sulphur Spring and currently lives in Forney, also asked whether the Grays Building could be renovated at a cheaper price than constructing a new building.
Brittany Abron, a lifelong Sulphur Springs resident who resides a block from the park, pointed out that as a child she played on the same slides and seesaws that are currently in use at Pacific Park, as did her sister, who is 6 years older and her cousins, who are 12 and 15 years older.
“It’s several decades later and I think we deserve that as a community. Pacific Parks is a central part of the East End community, but it is a city park. If there’s noting that says anybody outside of the East End can’t visit there, can’t play there. We want it to be a community park, that is right next to where we live, where we can walk, where are our kids can ride bikes up there. We just want it to be safe,” Abron said.
Abron asked that city officials give the same attention and funding to Pacific Park that other city parks and properties, including the downtown square, receive.
“I want you to go 3 miles down the road and have that same pride for the Pacific Park, which has been neglected from wear and tear. We just deserve that,” Abron said.
Sulphur Springs resident Bryan Bell agreed that Pacific Park needs some work, but said his main concern is also park safety. He said missing playground pieces and other equipment that’s in disrepair are safety issues.
“Some kids could get hurt if they were to go up there and play. In the event a child was hurt, that’s going to fall on the city. So, I’m trying to look after everybody when I speak on this. It’s not just a matter of getting it looking nice. It’s our children’s safety. I take my child there. Others will take theirs there as well. We really need to get to the bottom of the safety issue, and then maybe we can get on to the money and getting nicer things. The safety is the main priority at city park that I’m seeing now,” Bryan Bell said.
He also expressed concern for the speed limit and the fact that cars travel up and down Carter Street at too fast a pace, putting the safety of those in the area at risk.
Bryan Bell asked the council to invest funding for more police presence around the park during the day. He said doing so would give people a “safer feel” while at the park and in the area.
“I know for a fact a lot of concern for Pacific Park is the extracurricular activity,” Bryan Bell acknowledged.
Bryan Bell asked that the city consider hosting activities at Pacific Park, in addition to the square and other parks, to get people from all areas of town to the park.
Former city council member Valanderous Bell said he does not currently still live in the East End community but did for 31 years and still loves the community, while he understood the council’s rules that they hear the comments but do not respond directly to them aside from providing specific facts, asked City Manager Marc Maxwell if a plan was in place.
Maxwell said there is a plan in motion for city parks. He explained that a series of meetings were held to develop an overall Parks and Open Space Master Plan, which could take up to 10 years to fully implement and will require funding. With the combined plan, the city plans to apply for a Parks and Wildlife grant.
The top priority identified by the East End community during the community meeting there was for a new H.W. Grays Building, so the city is proceeding with that. The cost is estimated to be at least half a million dollars, which exceeds the $170,000 the city received from the property sale to apply toward the construction of the new building, the top priority community members identified. The plan for the park includes renovations and restorations, including a sports pavilion and flexible sports area. Those improvements are estimated at $1.2 million or more, which is where the TPWD grant would come in, if the city is awarded it.
Valanderous Bell said he understands from past experience that projects of this nature take a while to fully reach fruition, often due to funding limitations. He did ask for a projected timeline for the city parks project.
Bell encouraged the community to work with city officials to find ways to get the project done, and encouraged the city official to consider the immediate needs for the park.
Maxwell noted that every dollar spent elsewhere is a dollar less available to be spent on construction of the Grays building, which the community identified in the parks planning meeting as their top priority.
Marty Brown, who is from Wisconsin and owns property on Main Street, also addressed the city council during the public forum portion of Tuesday’s meeting. He said he asked the council to contact him regarding a matter, but unclear on what. He said he was never contacted. He offered congratulations to newly elected council members, who are scheduled to take the oath of office in June, thank those who serve for volunteering and encouraged them to meet the tasks of the job.