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Victoria parks department seeks public input on future of Riverside Park

By Melissa Crowe
Jan. 7, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2014 at 7:08 p.m.


IF YOU GO

• Parks Department Public Hearing

• 5:30 p.m. Monday and March 10

• Victoria City Council Chambers, 107 W. Juan Linn St.

• To learn more: VictoriaTX.org or facebook.com/victoriaparks.recreation

The Victoria Parks and Recreation Department on Monday will host the first of two public meetings to gather ideas for a master plan on the city's largest park.

Parks and Recreation Director Colby Van Gundy said the hearings will ensure the parks commission is following the wishes of the public when it comes to the future of Riverside Park.

"We want a first-class facility that is well-maintained and well-kept, so any time someone comes to it, it's like it's brand new," Van Gundy said.

Both hearings are set for 5:30 p.m. Monday and March 10 at the city council chambers, 107 W. Juan Linn St.

Anyone who is unable to attend the meetings may also leave suggestions on the parks department's Facebook page.

Parks Commission Chairman Ashley Walyuchow said no suggestion is too large or small for the hearing. He considers Riverside Park to be a potential "defining destination" for the city.

"For me, this is a real good opportunity to get ideas and input," he said. "It's their park."

While the city published a master parks plan in February 2012, Van Gundy said Riverside Park is large enough to warrant its own plan.

The park covers more than 565 acres alongside the Guadalupe River. With a rose garden, children's park, disc golf, a paddling trail, baseball fields, volleyball courts, pavilions and more, Van Gundy does not shy away from calling the park a "gem of Victoria."

"If you come down here on a Saturday or Sunday, it's jam-packed with people," he said.

He anticipates some ideas from the public hearings to center on water parks, dog parks or more walking trails. Already, some park patrons are getting vocal online with suggestions of a Christmas light tour through the park, paddle boats, resurrecting the old train, expanding playground equipment and adding fishing piers.

Van Gundy and Walyuchow said they will leave the amenities up to the public.

That's not to say neither has a vision for the park. Van Gundy envisions re-opening a portion of Grover's Bend, a low-lying area alongside the Guadalupe River that was closed after a major flood.

"It's one of the first areas that floods," he said.

He envisions it as a well-maintained open space, not for programming but for relaxing and playing in the river.

Walyuchow wants to see more maintenance to open up the views of the river from the roadway.

So far, there is no talk about dollars or budgets, but Van Gundy said this plan will set things into motion.

He wants the commission to finish developing the Riverside Park plan by this spring so the projects can be included in next year's budget.

"I think the city's been real good about putting money into quality of life, and I would anticipate that it would continue," he said. "We've got to come up with a project, get it together and then let (the finance department) see if we can get it funded."

Walyuchow said the commission is not being constrained by having to work within a budget.

"We need to get as much input as possible and then see what we can do," he said. "I would hate to leave something off the table or a great idea just because someone thinks City Council would never fund it."

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