Public meeting set for Tuesday

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The City of Alice Parks and Recreation Department is seeking input from the public, as department officials work to develop a long-term plan to improve the city's parks system.

Today's issue of the Alice Echo-News Journal includes a 2007 City of Alice Parks, Recreation and Open Space Survey, submitted by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The survey covers a variety of questions, ranging from opinions regarding park quality to requested summer programs.

Debbie Harville, recreation superintendent for the City of Alice, said the city hopes to use the survey to guide future action and to obtain state grants for future projects.

"This is hopefully going to result in the implementation of a Parks Master Plan," Harville said. "Which will also hopefully gain us access to state funding to do some major development and improvements to the city's parks."

Readers are asked to fill out and return the survey by Feb. 23. Surveys may be returned through the mail or at one of three locations in the city: the Utility Billing Department in City Hall, the RecCenter and the Alice Public Library. Additional copies of the survey will also be available at those locations.

In addition to the survey, the Parks and Recreation Department is also asking for the public's feedback at an open meeting to be held in City Hall on Tuesday.

The meeting, which is scheduled to begin a 4 p.m. in the council chambers, will include representatives of Halff and Associates, Inc., the company developing the Parks Master Plan for the city. Those representatives are expected to give a presentation on proposed parks projects at 6 p.m., with a question and answer session to follow.

Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez said she hoped all residents who have an interest in the parks system will attend.

"I think it's important that we have feedback from the community," Saenz-Lopez said. "It's important that they tell us what they would like us to do as far as our parks and the lake."

Saenz-Lopez said the condition of the city's parks has deteriorated in recent years, but the council is working to reverse that trend.

"I think we're very, very ready and very behind on our parks," Saenz-Lopez said. "The city basically has not had the funds, but fortunately with the last budget cycle, with our sales tax doing so good, the city was able to allocate $250,000 for the parks. I think that's going to make a little bit of a difference."

Rick DelBosque, president of the parks board, said improving the parks is one of the keys to improving the overall quality of life in the city.

"There's a communal aspect of it," DelBosque said. "You get the families with the children to spend time somewhere other than the back yard. People get to know each other."

Harville agreed and added improving the parks would have an impact that would extend beyond the city limits.

"The important word is 'inviting,'" Harville said. "We want to invite not just our own community, but outsiders to join us, to want to be a part of Alice. With that, then Alice grows."

All three officials said residents constantly approach them on the street to offer input regarding the city's parks, but the survey and the open meeting will allow the city to focus and act on those suggestions.

"We really care about what they have to say about the improvements that we make to our parks and our facilities," Harville said. "The direction we take is going to be the direction they want us to take."