The Community Parks Committee is the first of the city’s 2017 bond committees to finish its work. Recommendations on proposed parks and open space projects were finalized during a lengthy meeting Dec. 5 at the Central Library. After a series of proposals and counter-proposals, the committee decided not to cut money from the $21 million Hemisfair Civic Park project. There had been a couple of proposals to redirect some funds from Hemisfair to other projects.
The project has come under fire from many residents who feel it takes up too big of a chunk in the parks bond category. They said smaller projects citywide should at least get a shot at more funds, or any funding at all. That criticism did come from some of the committee members.
But other residents, including a few committee representatives, have said the $21 million are needed to help properly redevelop a part of Hemisfair into a civic park that all San Antonians can enjoy. There are plans and pledges for private fund leveraging as part of Hemisfair’s overall redevelopment.
There also were a couple of proposals to reallocate some money from the San Antonio Botanical Garden project to smaller projects. But like with Hemisfair, some committee members convinced others that the botanical garden is a unique asset for San Antonio and City Council District 2. The bond had proposed a $7 million allocation for the garden, which is undergoing expansion as part of its master plan. Officials and supporters with the botanical garden say it needs space to adequately accommodate an event venue. The committee’s District 2 membership did rescind a proposal to further de-fund the Hardberger Park land bridge idea. District 2 representatives had a change of heart following a bus tour of Hardberger and some other select project sites on Dec. 3.
The committee did, however, agree to proposals to cut into funding for larger projects, such as a San Antonio Zoo parking garage, sports fields at Brooks City-Base, land acquisition for O.P. Schnabel Park, and improvements around the World Heritage/Missions area. Those monies were divided up for smaller projects in different council districts.
District 2 members hope to have a currently unfunded project, Dawson Park improvements, placed on a priority list. District 6 members hope the same for a gated skateboard park. Other originally unfunded projects, including improvements at the Old Spanish Trail soccer complex, and upgrades at the Normoyle Park softball facility, did get some money as a result of the Dec. 5 meeting. Unfunded projects are those that have not been/were not initially recommended by city staff.
The City Council will meet in mid-January to first review recommendations from all five bond committees, then act on those proposals before calling a May 6 election. The grand total of the bond is $850 million.