Hiking, biking get top billing
The city- commissioned survey has helped city staff and the town’s Parks and Recreation Board put together a proposed new Open Space and Master Plan. The city council is scheduled to consider approving the document at a meeting to begin at 5 p.m. today, Thursday, Aug. 18, in council chambers at city hall, 710 W. Ave. A.
The city contracted Luck Design Team, an Austin firm, to conduct the survey and do related work. It was a $12,000 contract.
The city creates an updated Open Space and Master Plan every five years. It’s partly to gauge what residents want for parks and recreation facilities and programs, and partly because the city must have an updated plan in order to apply for grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, according to Gary Mysorski, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
“ Hike and bike trails throughout the city of Port Aransas might mean different things to different people,” according to one part of the proposed new master plan. “For some, it means soft surface trails and the boardwalks of the nature preserve. For others, it means getting around the city on bikes.”
The city “will look for opportunities to increase trails in the nature preserve and surrounding areas and in the formalized path system within Port Aransas proper,” the plan states.
A hike-and-bike trail and boardwalk is under construction as part of Phase Two of improvements at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture. The trail extends into the acreage from the end of a new road that has been built, branching off State Hwy. 361, near Sharkey’s Bar and Grill Beach Club. When finished, the trail is expected to be 4,000 feet long, composed alternately of boardwalks and decomposed granite.
A hike-and-bike trail that will be nearly two miles long is part of the planned improvements to 11th Street from Avenue G to Beach Access Road 1A. Port Aransas voters approved a $6.4 million bond issue to finance the road project May 14. The bulk of construction is expected to take place next year.
No other hike-and-bike trails are actively being pursued right now, but city offi- cials will be on the lookout for grants to finance those kinds of projects. Mysorski said.
Other top needs identified in the survey were picnic shelters and pavilions, natural/ open spaces, fishing access areas and botanical gardens.
The surveying firm heard from a lot of people who want a “multipurpose/recreation center” that could provide a venue for fitness classes, recreation activities for youth and families and other programs that cannot be offered within the limited space at the Parks and Recreation Department’s building across Avenue A from city hall.
But the parks board and staff believe that construction of such a structure isn’t going to happen any time soon, according to the written plan.
“Taking into account existing debt service for parks and recreation facilities as well as national standards for the construction and operation of an indoor recreation center or multi-purpose center, the project is not feasible at this time,” according to a written board and staff survey response in the planning document.
Certificates of obligation issued to fund improvements at the nature preserve won’t be paid off until 2018.
National standards cite criteria of one indoor recreation center or multi-purpose center per 20,000 in population, since that population establishes a viable tax base to support such a facility, according to the plan. Port Aransas has a population of only 3,480, though authors of the plan admit that the population increases significantly with tourism in the summer and winter.
The plan points out that a Port Aransas business, Paradise Fitness Center, closed “when there was not enough demand to sustain the operation,” the plan said, adding that no similar entity has opened since.
“The city is willing to pursue collaborations with other entities or to partner with other benefactors to realize the vision of a multi-purpose indoor recreation center,” the plan says.
The park board will reevaluate the demand and economic climate in five years and study the costs associated with the construction, staffing, operation and maintenance to determine if an indoor facility is feasible, according to the plan.
Most people who took the survey said fitness classes are the sports activities or recreational programs that the city needs to address most. Other activities that got big responses were, in order, hiking, canoeing or kayaking, nature study and fishing.
Some 51.6 percent of those taking the survey rated Port Aransas parks, recreation opportunities and open spaces as good. Another 24.7 percent said they’re excellent, 20.7 percent said they’re fair and 1.8 percent said they’re poor.
Most respondents said they would support a bond election for funds to acquire and develop new public parks and recreation facilities and new athletic or recreational facilities in parks and to acquire more parkland.
Some 74.3 percent said they believe the city should charge fees to offset the cost of programs and activities, but only 21.5 percent said they think the city should increase taxes to offset the cost of programs and activities.
Some 276 people eventually took the survey after city parks staff were quoted in news stories as saying that too few people had taken the survey to go forward with the study. Staff repeatedly extended deadlines for completing the forms and publicly urged citizens to come forward and get involved in the process.
Some 76.2 percent of the respondents were Port Aransas residents, and 13.9 percent were Winter Texans. The rest identified themselves as short-term summer guests, short-term winter guests or as folks who own a second home in Port Aransas.
The average respondent reported spending about $139.75 per month on recreational activities.
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.