City park improvement group begins work

Scott Fitzgerald
Reporter Editor

(Survey requesting public involvement expected in February)
SWEETWATER — A recently appointed parks advisory committee will conduct a public survey in February requesting resident ideas for a massive city park improvement project.
“We’d love to have everyone fill one out. This will give us a feel for what everyone wants,” said city Mayor Jim McKenzie.
Committee members met with Jim Carrillo of Halff Associates of Austin earlier this month to begin work on the park improvement project that was aided with a recent $25,000 bestowment from the Sweetwater and Nolan County Chamber of Commerce in September.
The survey will likely be made available online, both McKenzie and Carrillo said.
“Most everything we’ve got in our parks now was installed in the 1970s. We need to get it updated to allow for more people to use,” McKenzie said.
Carrillo who is a landscape architect said during a field study of the city’s parks, he was struck by something unique here.
“”The maintenance here has to be among the top 10 to 15 percent of all municipal park systems we have worked on within the state. Some real kudos go out to the maintenance staff here,” Carrillo said.
One of the immediate focal points underway now is integrating what goes on in Sweetwater with the park system, he said.
For example, the massive and impressive Nolan County Coliseum expansion and improvement is something that must be considered and combined with the project.
A parking expansion and improvement to aid both Newman Park and the coliseum could be incorporated within the plan, Carrillo said.
Within that area also are softball and baseball fields that draw many people. Those magnets of drawing people need to be incorporated within the plan, Carrillo said.
“There’s some playground equipment that we will need to replace,” Carrillo said.
Another immediate infrastructure project that will be considered is splash pads, an area with running water by means of a sprinkler system that curtails any standing water. The sprinkler system can be done through various means such as spray cannons.
“It’s very effective. Kids love it and it’s cost effective,” Carrillo said.
Both he and McKenzie said the city swimming pool will require a remodeling.
The plan will also keep in mind visitors to Sweetwater.
“Sweetwater is a primary source of parks for many residents throughout the area. A main purpose of the plan is to see what opportunities are here to further draw more people,” Carrillo said.
Also in the works for February and the spring will be hosting open houses that will include drawings and maps of the park system. It is expected to draw further resident interest and involvement, Carrillo said.
City manager David Vela said a final draft of the plan will be submitted to Texas Parks and Wildlife for their consideration and review. The state parks and wildlife department will work with Sweetwater to help procure grant movies to defray the overall cost of park improvement work, he said.
Carrillo said the planning advisory committee is excited about the work its members have embarked upon.
“We’re excited about making the survey available in a few weeks. A parks improvement project is a good thing for the city. It helps much in improving the quality of life,” Carrillo said.