By Lora-Marie Bernard
The latest Galveston County Master Park Plan includes updates that follow a trend to create larger-scale parks with new features from non-traditional funding sources. The Galveston County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the updated plan after conducting its final of four public hearings during a regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 1. No one spoke at the last hearing and a total of less than 50 people attended all the four summertime hearings. By contrast, 337 citizens responded to an online survey, said Julie Diaz, County Parks Director.
“Staff continues a direction that we will be looking for more regional parks not the smaller parks,” she said. “We are looking for more public private partnerships to offset some of the costs for commissioners’ court and county.” The new approaches pleased Commissioner Joe Guisti who said he had been to public hearings where the topics were broached. “The public received the idea of more public private partnerships well, and what you said is what I got out of the public input,” he said to Diaz.
Commissioners discussed whether the new updates would create unrealistic expectations. Commissioner Ken Clark questioned whether the plan accurately reflected the desires of the citizens and if proposed projects would create unattainable expectations for them. He also questioned if the proposed new projects were generated by staff or the citizens. “What we have done in the past, traditionally, is that the master plan comes out after public has spoken,” he said. “When I was at the public hearing, the ideas weren’t exactly preselected but they tended to favor that or those particular positions. I guess I’m somewhat hesitant on approving the plan that has some of those predetermined suppositions in it, like splash pads.”
Diaz said, however, that the plan was only a blueprint guide that can change depending on funding and future desires. “Anything we decide to change over the next week we can do in the document and send to Texas Parks and Wildlife with the update,” she said. “Again this is a living document and it does not hold us to any of the projects, it just gets us to a wish list. Some things are needed more than others with renovations and things like that.”
Commissioner Darrel Apffel said he understood Clark’s concern that predetermined items may have been added because they were the staff’s “wish list” but he said he interpreted the additions in a different way. “As I understand it, nothing was deleted in this update,” he said. “It was only added to, and to me if we are trying to take care of the citizens of the county then we need to be shooting for the moon and landing on the stars. “If that includes a splash pad or a dog park, well, those are items you don’t necessarily agree with Commissioner Clark, but that doesn’t mean, in my mind, we shouldn’t have it in there,” he said.
Clark responded and said he was mainly concerned that residents would be disappointed if the projects were not done after their expectations were raised. ?