CALL TO ACTION: Parks Master Plan
On Monday 11/1 at 3:00 PM, the city council will consider a resolution to adopt a proposed Parks, Recreation and Open Space master plan, which was recently made available on the city’s home page. Download a copy of the plan here http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/news/Docs/10oct28_parksplan.pdf (12MB). Thanks to Sherwood Bishop for requesting the addition of missing natural areas (listed below)! We are also pleased to see that the plan emphasizes trails and includes a greenbelt map that generally reflects SMGA’s Loop & Check vision supported by language we provided.
However we have the following concerns and strongly encourage you to email the city council at [email protected] ASAP (before their meeting at 3PM on Monday afternoon) to request that approval of the plan be delayed to provide time for further discussion and resolution of the issues, many of which are listed below. Surely this parks and open space master plan, in development for the past year, will drive many important decisions and deserves a close look. We do not see any need to rush the plan through.
- The greenbelt map on p. 89 (PDF p. 95) of the plan does not depict a connection between the Purgatory Creek and Ringtail Ridge natural areas and the map does not show connective corridors between waterway greenbelts. (We have requested that these connections be added to the maps.)
- The complete connection between the San Marcos River and Purgatory Creek Park (along Purgatory Creek itself with possible link to Willow Creek near the Victory Gardens neighborhood) is not shown. The missing segment is depicted in the San Marcos Transportation Plan (SM Trans Master Plan, section 6, PDF pp. 118-119) and is likely to be one of the most heavily used along the loop.
- Appendix C: Parkland Dedication recommends changes to requirements that developers dedicate acreage in new subdivisions for park land. According to the plan, “these recommendations allow the city to acquire slightly more park land than the existing ordinance, but also add development fees for improvements.” This language suggests that developers would be required to dedicate parkland and help fund the improvements. But the language later in that section suggests that the developer can choose (without the currently required approval process of the Parks & Recreation Board, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the City Council), to trade some of the park land requirement for credit toward the improvements, which actually weakens the overall requirement and functions more like a “fee-in-lieu.” (Fees-in-lieu typically allow developers to negotiate payments that replace or reduce parkland dedication requirements.) Fees-in-lieu should only be used in exchange for land in situations where the land is unsuitable because of its characteristics or location, as indicated in the current master plan. Fees-in-lieu should not serve as a means to offset improvement fees. If a developer wishes to deviate from park land requirements, the developer should receive a recommendations from the Parks Board and the Planning & Zoning Commission and approval by the City Council. We would also highly recommend adding requirements that restrict what “fee-in-lieu” funds can be spent on (e.g., fee-in-lieu funds must be used to purchase parkland in other areas of the city). Without this restriction, increased use of fees-in-lieu, rather than parkland dedication, would result in less park land. Furthermore, if fee-in-lieu funds are used for Parks Department operations or facilities, construction, and maintenance, the City Council could decide that these increased fee-in-lieu funds would allow them to decrease the parks & recreation budget.
- On pp. 63-64 (PDF p. 20) we suggest revising the environmental and connectivity goals to emphasize preservation of natural areas that address habitat, recharge, the river, and flooding.
- Under Standards on p. 77 (PDF p. 83), we would like to see more details and benefits added to the explanations of natural resource protection and trail connectivity.
- The Action Plan on p. 98 (PDF p. 104) should indicate that wilderness trail construction is about $2,000/mile and that $200,000/mile applies to 6′ hike and bike trails.
- It would be nice to see the plan updated with information about Ringtail Ridge (no longer “undeveloped” thanks to SMGA volunteers and the city) and Blanco Shoals (a new master plan needs to be created since the original one is in conflict with the donor’s stipulations).
Barring the issues noted above and others that may surface as discussions continue, SMGA is supportive of the parks and open space master plan and the community input that was considered in its development. Here are highlights from the plan:
- The parks and open space system will consist of parks, natural areas, and linear greenways that foster community gatherings, provide opportunities for active and passive recreation for area residents, and preserve significant natural and cultural resources.
- The planning horizon is ten years, and covers the period from 2010 to 2020. The park master plan covers the San Marcos city limits and includes the extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of the city.
- During plan development, these top five needs were identified:
1. Trails (connections to existing trails and rivers/creeks)
2. Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities in the area of Ranch Road 12 and Craddock Ave
3. Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities East of I35
4. Athletic fields west of I35 along McCarty Lane
5. Community park development west of I35 and near downtown
- Input from the public and other stakeholders was obtained through stakeholder interviews and questionnaires, park user intercept surveying, and community informational meetings.
- The plan includes San Marcos River corridor management recommendations developed in cooperation by the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department, Texas State University’s River Systems Institute and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
- A list of parkland for future development includes:
Blanco River Village, neighborhood, 20 acres
Blanco Riverwalk greenbelt, greenbelt, 55 acres
Cottonwodd Creek Park, greenbelt, 53 acres
Crystal Creek greenbelt, greenbelt, 5 acres
El Camino Real Neighborhood Park, neighborhood, 37 acres
Mccarty Commons, greenbelt, 55 acres
Paso Robles Parkland, greenbelt, 138 acres
Purgatory Creek Pdd, greenbelt, 3 acres
Retreat On Willow Springs, greenbelt, 37 acres
- Through the community meetings and user surveys, the following five activities were consistently requested:
1. Natural areas
2. Hike / bike trails
3. River access
5. Tennis courts
- “The overwhelming majority of those surveyed and those in attendance at public meetings felt that extensive consideration needed to go towards trail systems and balancing the protection of the San Marcos River with development…As one of the top priorities of the parks plan, the City should work to establish a program of growing a trail network rather than implementing it in bits and pieces. Coordination with other City departments and public agencies will be critical in providing a network that is useable throughout the ETJ.”
- “Several greenbelts in San Marcos are under development, and investment in their advancement is a priority…In San Marcos, there are two types of greenbelts: those that follow waterways; and those that serve as connective corridors. Together they will create a network of greenbelts, which provides hike and bike opportunities to all parts of town and over long distances. Sometimes called a greenway, a greenbelt is characterized by having a high ratio between its edge and its acreage and therefore offers easy access for neighbors and visitors.”