SARA to host Escondido Creek Linear Park public meeting

This image shows a concept of a new recreational trail project presented by the San Antonio River Authority to City of Kenedy Leaders in 2012. A meeting is set for Jan. 26 to give local residents the chance to offer input into the design and function of the park.

KENEDY – The Kenedy City Council took action at their Oct. 9 meeting to put funding in place to begin moving into the first phase of a project now being called the Escondido Creek Parkway.

Concept drawings presented at the meeting show a vision of a new recreational trail, more than a mile in length, designed to circle the banks of Escondido Creek from a trailhead adjacent to N. 5th Street where it crosses Escondido Creek to a connection point near the creek just north of Joe Gulley Park.

Three low water crossings, or weirs, are shown in the design to give those who use the trail a safe way to cross the creek at three different points. The parkway will extend under the US Highway 181 bridge with trails on both sides of the creek.

A parking area and picnic area are shown adjacent to the creek just southwest of where the creek crosses N. 5th Street.

Matthew Driffill made the presentation before city officials on behalf of the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) who is offering assistance with the project.

Driffill explained the project would happen in separate phases, with phase 1 including real estate acquisition and the gathering of public input to turn the concept into actual working plans.

“We want to see what the citizens here want and also work with Mr. Patton and other officials to make sure that they are willing to pay for it and maintain it in the future,” Driffill said.

Mayor Randy Garza asked Driffill for the estimated total cost of the project.

Driffill said that the original concept with 3,500 linear feet of trail was estimated at $1.2 million, but the latest revision of the concept includes 6,600 linear feet of trail. There are variables that will affect the cost, Driffill explained, such as whether or not to use concrete and rebar to build the trail, or another choice known as a boardwalk construction method using hardiplank fiberboard.

The cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $108,000, according to discussion at the meeting.

City Manager Ford Patton said that the 4B Corporation is the logical funding source for a park project such as this.

Before considering entering into an interlocal agreement with SARA for the project, the council heard a presentation on the Kenedy 4B Corporation budget.

The Kenedy 4B Corporation supports parks and recreation projects through funding provided through a half-cent sales tax collected on all purchases within the City of Kenedy.

Kenedy 4B Corporation Larry Kiesling said that the budget for the coming year totals $920,499 in spending.

Kiesling said the board anticipates approximately $40,000 per month in sales tax revenue for the coming year.

“It is running considerably more than that right now, but we don’t know if it is going to hold,” Kiesling said.

Mayor Garza talked about ways to make changes in the 4B budget, in order to free up funds for moving ahead with the first phase of the parkway project. Two items in this year’s budget related to improvements to lighting systems at local ball fields could be postponed in order to free up funding, Garza said.

The parks board voted to put the lighting system on the “back burner,” Garza said, in order to free up funding for the parkway.

Kiesling said the consensus of the 4B Corporation board was to complete the lighting system at the Annadel Rogers Field, but plans to improve lighting at one of the other fields could be postponed.

Discussion among council members indicated that by postponing one of the two lighting projects, enough funding would be available to complete the first phase of the parkway project.

After further discussion, Councilman Bob Patton made a motion to amend the budget for the Kenedy 4B Corporation in order to fund the first phase of the parkway project. Councilman Ken Reiley seconded the motion which passed with all voting in favor. Patton also made a motion to approve the amended budget, which was also seconded by Ken Reiley. All voted in favor.

The council then considered the interlocal agreement with SARA for the first phase of the Escondido Creek Parkway Concept.

SARA Board of Directors Chairman Gaylon Oehlke spoke briefly to the city council about the project.

“If you can approve this agreement, and we can get this going, then we have a project,” Oehlke said. “We have a proposal here of how it may be built. There may be some changes on that but that won’t be done until it comes back to the city council. We could advertise it, we could look for some extra funding, the park is going to belong to the City of Kenedy, so this will get the ownership in the City of Kenedy.”

Oehlke said the project will help with flood control, by clearing weeds and brush, even before a trail is constructed.

“Once we get this done, you can just imagine, kids can come over to this plain over here on 5th Street – the parking area – they will have access all the way to the park and all the ball fields and everything else without having to try and get across 181,” Oehlke said. “Kids used to go down there with their bikes for ball games and stuff... I don’t think that’s possible anymore with the traffic we have now... It just completes your park. We have one of the best parks in South Texas for a town this size. This will just make it that much better.”

Councilman Bob Patton made a motion to approve entering into the agreement with SARA with changes as discussed with the city attorney and also to authorize the city manager to negotiate the agreement on behalf of the city. Councilman H. J. Kolinek seconded the motion which passed with all voting in favor.

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