Escondido Creek Parkway’s bingo fundraiser packs house

Pictured are some of the winners from the Designer Bag Bingo event that was held at the City of Kenedy auditorium on Thursday night.

KENEDY – Yet another fundraiser for the Escondido Creek Parkway Project has been successful thanks to the Designer Bag Bingo event that was held at the City of Kenedy auditorium on Thursday night.

“The event was a huge success with 250 attendees. A sell-out crowd with every seat taken,” said Gaylon Oehlke, one of the event organizers. “There was a lot of excitement and fun had by all throughout the night.”

Twenty designer bags from brands such as Consuela, Michael Kors, Vera Bradley and Patricia Nash, just to name a few, were won during the night.  A “man purse” and a Yeti hopper drew interest, as well as the grand finale: a Louis Vuitton.    

This is the second of many events that the Escondido Creek Parkway fundraising committee will sponsor to raise money for the Escondido Creek Parkway. Committee members are president Ward Thomas, Christina Benavides, Ron Hyde, Lisa Pogue Yaklin and Oehlke.

“I want to thank the committee for the hard work that they, members of their family and other ‘Friends of the Parkway’ put forth to make this event a success,” noted Oehlke. “I especially want to thank everyone in the community who showed up to support this event and the Escondido Creek Parkway project.”

The Escondido Creek Parkway project will result in approximately two miles of hike and bike trails that will connect downtown Kenedy to Joe Gulley Park and will give children a safe passageway to go to the park without having to cross U.S. Highway 181.

“The parks weirs, water features, pavilion, restrooms, playground equipment, pocket parks, amphitheater and other amenities all come with a cost and events, such as the Designer Bag Bingo, help raise funds for such things,” explained Oehlke.

The Escondido Creek Park project became official on Oct. 17, 2012, with the passage of an interlocal agreement between the City of Kenedy and the San Antonio River Authority (SARA).

“We actually were working on the project for several years prior to this date and even had several public meetings,” noted Oehlke.

With this agreement, the City of Kenedy hired SARA to be the project manager for this project.  SARA had experience with this type of project, having recently completed the Mission Reach and prior to that, the Museum Reach in San Antonio.  The City of Kenedy and SARA became the first two partners in this project.

Over the next few years, progress was slow.  

Oehlke added, “We had to do title work to determine the property owners of the land needed for the project. We had to contact the property owners to get permission to survey the land. We had to survey the land, get it appraised and ultimately acquire the land. This has all been completed at this time.

During this period of time, the City of Kenedy, through the Kenedy 4B Corporation, put in $289,534 to cover the expenses related to acquiring the property, at which time, the Kenedy 4B Corporation became another partner in this project.

Although the Kenedy Parks Board does not have funds to add to the project, they are working hand in hand in developing an addition to the park system in Kenedy that the community can all be proud of and they are definitely considered a partner in the project.

“We reached a point where we needed to get our funding identified before we could go any further with the project,” continued Oehlke. “You can’t apply for grants unless you have matching funds.  We approached the Kenedy 4B Corporation again and received a commitment from them for $900,000 over a three year period.”

Kenedy 4B Corporation was concerned with the operation and maintenance of the parkway once it was completed.  Again, SARA stepped up to the plate and said, “If you build it, we will operate and maintain it”.

The Kenedy Chamber of Commerce has also become a partner and committed $300,000 over a three year period.

Another partner was also added recently to the mix. The San Antonio River Foundation, which is an organization that was created by SARA to help in attracting donations for the Museum Reach to pay for amenities that could not be paid for with tax payer money.  

They continue to help with the Mission Reach and now have expanded their scope to help with projects outside of Bexar County.

“We are in the process of adding another partner,” noted Oehlke. “Now that we have money committed to the parkway, we can apply for grants.”

A “Trails Grant” through Texas Parks and Wildlife was just recently applied for and Oehlke says he is optimistic on this grant and hopes that it can be repeated over the next few years. He hopes to hear the results on this grant in May.

“Now that we are accumulating money, we need to move the project forward,” explained Oehlke.  “We sent out a request for a firm to complete the design of the project, draw up the construction documents, get the required permits, etc.”

Oehlke has received seven proposals and has narrowed those down to three. “We expect to have a firm hired by the end of the month. Our schematic design took us to 30 percent completion on design. This will complete the design phase and get us ready for construction. This may be completed sometime later this year.”

Oehlke spoke during the event on Thursday night and stated that he had mentioned in the past that he thought the ground breaking for the Escondido Creek Parkway might happen later this year and told those in attendance, “I’m afraid I was too optimistic. I understand that obtaining the permits required to build a project on a waterway sometimes can take a while. At any rate, it will give us more time to accumulate money.”

“This project will happen. It is for real,” concluded Oehlke. At the very least, we will be able to build the hike and bike trails, the weirs that will trap the water, one of the parking lots and the various crossings that we need on the creek.”

The question, Oehlke and others wonder, is ‘How much of the other amenities will they be able to complete?’

“We hope to do it all,” said Oehlke. “We would also like to add a skate park and a splash pad to this project. I know that the Kenedy Parks Board would also like to see that happen.”

Oehlke also noted that organizers would soon have cost estimates on the different amenities that will add to the project and that there will be naming rights available for large donations that individuals or companies might like to make.

“It would be a good way to honor your family name or a loved one that has passed away,” said Oehlke. “Please contact me or any member of the fundraising committee if you would like to discuss this option. Of course, we will always welcome smaller donations at any time and as often as you want to give them.”

In closing, Oehlke said, “When this project is completed, it will become the ‘Face of Kenedy’. When you drive over the Hwy. 181 bridge, you will be able to tell your family or friends that are riding with you that, ‘I helped build this project.’”

The Escondido Creek Parkway fundraising committee is planning to have another Designer Bag Bingo event soon due to popular demand.

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