City hopes residents will share their ideas

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Officials working to create a Parks Master Plan for the City of Alice said they were disappointed Tuesday when no citizens attended an open meeting seeking input on the city's parks.

The meeting, which was held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers of the Alice City Hall, was attended by representatives of Halff Associates, the firm developing the Parks Master Plan for the city, and city staff, but no members of the public.

Debbie Harville, Recreation Superintendent for the city, said she was disappointed by the lack of public attendance, but said it was an issue the Parks and Recreation Department had faced in the past.

Harville said she has had problems obtaining feedback for the department in the past, and said she believes it is due in part to a misconception in the community.

"I think in the past the general perception has been that it doesn't matter how much they complain, nothing is going to get done," Harville said. "We are committed to change, and we need their support."

James Carrillo, a representative of Halff Associates, said his firm has a number of areas they hope to develop in the city's parks. Those areas include aquatic facilities such as swimming pools or splash parks, indoor recreation such as basketball courts or meeting areas, trails and walking areas, smaller parks located throughout the city and sports complexes for baseball, soccer and other team sports.

"We're looking for a lot of different things for a lot of different people across the board," Carrillo said. "The question isn't 'Can the city do all these things?' because it probably can. The question is what is most important."

Carrillo was scheduled to meet with a number of focus groups and officials who have an interest in the parks during an all-day meeting Wednesday, but he said his firm was also seeking input from other residents.

Harville encouraged citizens to keep an eye out for future meetings, and to participate in a survey the city is currently circulating. That survey is available at the Utility Billing Department in Alice City Hall, at the Alice Public Library and at the RecCenter. Surveys will be available through Feb. 23.

Harville said the city council recently earmarked $250,000 for improvement in the city's parks, and the city hopes to obtain more funds in the form of grants once the Parks Master Plan is complete.

Harville stressed that now is the time for citizens to provide their ideas for how that money should be spent.

"We have our own ideas, but they may not be the general public's ideas," Harville said. "Their input is valued."