Parks topic of discussion at town hall meeting

Cove Leader-Press
The Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation Department discussed and shared updates on the department’s projects that are part of the city’s capital improvement plan at their third town hall meeting held last Thursday at the Copperas Cove Civic Center. 
Parks and Recreation Director Joe Brown introduced himself to the crowd of around 20 and explained the purpose of the meeting was to focus on the quality of life in town and how it can be enhanced. He spoke about tourism and special events, the park updates and the golf course updates. 
The Copperas Cove Convention and Visitors Bureau helps promote tourism and special events and would enable the department to seek grants to help strengthen the scope of tourism. So far, the city has held a Fall-O-Ween Festival, the tree lighting ceremony and the Polar Bear Plunge. Next up will be a Farmers Market; and a Food Truck Festival. 
Brown discussed the timeline for park improvements. The original parks improvement plan was to begin working on each of the city’s eight parks individually, but they decided to shift focus to working by project type, Brown said. The different projects include: ADA compliance; pavilions; bathroom remodeling; walking trails developed; shade canopies erected over playgrounds; new playgrounds; lighting systems replaced and updated; water fountains; fitness stations along walking trails; pool filter systems updated; a splash pad; park monument signs; athletic fencing upgrades; outdoor basketball courts being resurfaced; seating areas being reestablished and/or created; and fixing bridges.
Phase One will focus on parking lots, sidewalks, walking trails and monument signs, beginning in 2017 and costing an estimated $1,556,367. There will be five Phases, totaling $3,700, 071. 
Brown said that the monument signs didn’t seem like much but would be important. He stressed the importance of branding the parks through the monument signs, as the city grows and as new people move in. 
Brown also touched on the lack of walking trails in City Park and other parks and mentioned a Notice of Support that is being circulated for residents to sign to help facilitate a grant request to the Texas Parks and Wildlife to help fund park improvements, which would include the walking trails. 
The trail is a big component of the park improvements and it’s undeniable that people walk in Cove parks, Brown said. In City Park, people walk on the roads or the grass all the time, and golfers walk on the golf course often as well, he added. 
“Adding these walking trails will be a huge element, a huge addition to our city park system,” Brown said. 
The trails will then be connected to preexisting sidewalks in or near the parks. 
Jerry Landes, project manager with BSP Engineers, also spoke to the crowd about the walking trail and the grant, and the process of deciding which projects to work on. It made more sense to consolidate the types of work after seeing the similar aspects in each park, Landes said. By June or July, they hope to be showing the final drawings of what the parks will look like, he said. 
Before taking questions, Brown explained the different ways that the community can interact with and receive updates from the Parks and Rec department, through program surveys as well as communicating through the Facebook page, website, Active Network and Sportsline. 
One question asked was why Kate Street Park would have improvements made if it was being designated as a utility easement and possibly not going to be a park anymore. Kate Street Park is a linear park, running from east to west, Brown said. It is not going away, he added. The plan is to keep the playground there and build walking trails and fitness stations, avoiding building anything vertically.
“I think it would be an absolute injustice to get rid of Kate Street Park,” Brown said. “There’s so much we can do at Kate Street Park, I think it’d be a crime to get rid of it.”
Another question asked about the possibility of adding a park to the northeast section of town. There is no plan to do so at this time, Brown said. The focus over the next five years will be on the city’s eight current parks.
Ilse Meier asked the final question before the meeting moved onto golf course related improvements. Meier said she and her granddaughter, a member of the Copperas Cove 4-H Club, helped plant a Chinkapin Oak tree in City Park last year. They placed a protective cage around it that ended up going missing, resulting in the tree being eaten by deer, she said. Meier said she came back with another cage to put around the tree. That cage was taken off by somebody, likely maintenance workers, and the tree ended up being harmed by a weed whacker, she said.
Meier said she wants to donate more trees to the parks but doesn’t want the same thing to happen to them. Brown gave her his business card and asked her to send him an email about the issue. He explained that he loves trees and is working on a tree program but that he is only one person and needs to get it off the ground. 
Brown moved on to the improvements from the Capital Improvement Plan regarding the golf course. The total cost of improvements for the Hills of Cove Golf Course is $1,280,334. The focus of 2016-2018’s issuance is going to be on cart path renovation, he said. Freese and Nichols engineering firm would create and develop the cart path renovation, according to the PowerPoint slide.
A citizen asked about the possibility of designating hours for people to walk or jog on the cart paths, adding that everybody pays for the golf course but only golfers get to use it.
Brown shared that he had discussed the possibility of opening the golf course to 5K runs and other races, with racers using the cart path. His concern with designated hours was that there could be difficulty enforcing those designated times, he said. 
The next Parks and Recreation Town Hall meeting will be April 27 at 5:30 p.m.

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Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
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