Terra Rivers | Managing Editor
On Tuesday, the Hays County Commissioners received a presentation by the Parks and Open Space Advisory Commission related to prospective projects within the county.
Scott Way, POSAC Chair, provided the commission with the final recommendations for a final November Bond Election for parks and open spaces in Hays County.
Way noted the uncertain times everyone is currently experiencing economically, socially and politically.
“The connections we have as humans to the natural world which bring us solace, shared heritage, strong communities and places for our children to learn and experiment,” Way said. “We all know during these uncertain times that these are places that add to our health and our community.”
According to Way, the POSAC charged ahead with the charter and held 11 meetings between March 7 and July 22, which were all held virtually except for the first.
On May 19, POSAC made a call for projects through social media, media and emails asking residents for their input.
Way said projects were evaluated to emphasize the top ten priorities from the 2012 Master Plan.
- Rivers/Creek Access
- Multi-Use Trails
- Youth Camping
- Nature Enjoyment
- Nature Center
- Festival and Event Space
- Recreation Center/Sport Complex/Sports Fields
- Shooting Sports
- Community Gardens
In 2007, Hays County voters approved “the issuance of a $30,000,000 of Hays County Tax Bonds for Parks, Natural Areas, Open Space and related projects, and the preservation of water quality, aquifer recharge areas, and wildlife habitat, and the levying of a tax in payment thereof.”
According to Way, the county’s goal of getting 1:1 in matching funds for the projects was exceeded to provide a $76,000,000 budget for parks and open space projects in Hays County.
Some of the projects made possible by the last bond are:
- Five Mile Dam Park
- Jacob’s Well Natural Area
- Winter’s Mill/Blue Hole Loop Trail
- Dahlstrom Ranch Conservation Easement & Gay Ruby Dahlstrom Nature Preserve
- La Cima Conservation Easement
- Wildenthal RHCP
- Buda Stagecoach Park
- Buda Tyler Norris Memorial Skateboard Park
- Buda Bradfield Park & Trails
- Dripping Springs Ranch Park
- Kyle City Square Park
- Kyle Gregg-Clarke Park
- Kyle Plum Creek Preserve/Lake Kyle Park
- San Marcos Combined Parks Improvements
- Wimberley Blue Hole Regional Park
- Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association Sports Fields
- Hays County Youth Sports/FM 2770
- Bear Creek Park & Trail (Belterra)
- North Hays Optimist Foundation Park (Goforth Road)
- Village of San Marcos Youth Sports Fields
Way said he believed it was time for continued investment as Hays County’s population has more than doubled since 2000 and remains the 2nd fastest growing county in the US.
“With this new bond, we are likely to be able to keep a county tax rate stable, so that it’s not a burden on folks,” Way said, “But then expand the overall parks and open space for everyone within the community.”
According to Way, the commission received 16 project submissions between May and July; the total funding requests are $115.4 Million with total project costs of over $176 Million (for all 16 items).
“We still haven’t heard from some of our municipalities who said they would like to present projects in the future such as Buda and San Marcos,” Way continued.
POSAC broke down the projects into three tiers:
- Tier One: Very Best & Highly Recommended to fund at some level
- Tier Two: Very Good & Strong recommendation to fund at some level
- Tier Three: For Consideration At a future date
Among the tier one projects are:
- Coleman’s Canyon Preserve
- Funds Requested: $2.6 Million
- Property already owned by Wimberley Watershed
- Sentinel Peak Park & Preserve (El Rancho Cima)
- Funds Requested: $10 Million
- Potential for up to $6 Million from the TWDB Clean Water State Revolving Fund if county is approved.
- San Marcos River Recharge Lands
- Funds Requested: ~ $3.4 Million to $4.3 Million
- Potential $782,450 from SMRF & San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance
- 1,200 Acre Regional Park
- Funds Requested: $10 Million
- City of Austin to pay the value attributable to the conservation easement: $10 Million to $11 Million providing at least a 1:1 Match.
- Hays County Habitat, Open Space & Clean Waters Preserve (Purgatory Creek Area)
- Funds Requested: ~ $17.7 Million
- Potential for TWDB Clean Water State Resolving Fund low interest loan
- Rathgeber Natural Resources Park
- Funds Requested: $7.5 Million
- Land estimated at $3,750,000 to $5,250,000. Plus City of Dripping Springs additional $110,000 to $175,000 for planning, public input, preliminary engineering and environmental studies
- Violet Crown Trail in Hays County
- Funds Requested: $3.8 Million
- TPWD trails Program, $200,000, HCC Grant $500,000.
- Cape’s Fishing Pond (Hays County)
- Funds Requested: $2.5 Million
- County purchased the land in March 2020 for $2.6 Million
POSAC is recommending a total bond initiative in the range of $75 to $80 Million. The recommended projects totaled $60 to $65 million.
POSAC recommended requesting an additional $15 to $20 million in case the City of Buda or San Marcos came forward with project proposals.
Way said the POSAC also wanted to continue to remain at the service of Hays County by participating in comprehensive countywide vision process and engage in conservation development projects.
Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe thanked the commission for their work and acknowledged that they knew they couldn’t fund every project.
Commissioner Will Smith said he really appreciated all the work POSAC had done and their efforts to really listen to the citizens of Hays County.
“Because at the end of the day, these projects aren’t our projects,” Commissioner Walt Smith said. “These projects are that were brought forth by citizens who identified a need and identified a way for the county to help our community reach them.”
If the county wants to add a potential park and open space bond to the November 3 Ballot, commissioners will have to approve a bond proposition by August 17.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said he campaigned on wanting Hays County to be the “Central Park of Central Texas,” and he felt blessed and grateful to be sitting in front of the presentation.
“I will be personally wrestling with the list of projects that have been conveyed,” Becerra said. “I know they’re all important, and I really appreciate Mr. Kennedy pointing out that we could dial it at different rates depending on what the economy is doing.”
Laura Dupont said this opportunity is something that will last forever and will be a legacy for the county even after the current uncertain state has passed.
Commissioners Court is canceled for August 4; however, the court will return on August 11 with a potential discussion and action item if they decide to move forward with calling for a bond.