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Branch Park provides a new outdoor activity in Goliad

Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

Elizabeth Branch, third from left, and other special guests, including Gaylon Oehlke, second from left, of the San Antonio Rivery Authority, open Goliad's Branch park with a ceremonial disc "toss."

Elizabeth Branch, third from left, and other special guests, including Gaylon Oehlke, second from left, of the San Antonio Rivery Authority, open Goliad's Branch park with a ceremonial disc "toss."

GOLIAD - Goliad resident Eric Garza, 28, has been playing disc golf for two years.

Garza generally drives to Victoria to practice disc golf or compete in tournaments, but with the completion of Branch Park on Saturday, he can practice a little closer to home.

"It means I can come over here and practice more often," Garza said.

The new disc golf course in Goliad will add variety to his practice routine, he said. Disc golfers work with different discs that are weighted and shaped differently similar to how golfers use different clubs to match the distance, the terrain and the wind they are competing in.

"Victoria is more of a long-range court, and Goliad is short range," Garza said. "Practicing in Goliad will increase my accuracy and give me practice on different terrains."

Both Garza and his wife, Amber Garza, 21, who recently took up the sport are excited about more opportunities to practice and improve their game.

The official ceremony opening Branch Park was followed by a ceremonial Frisbee toss. Community members ate barbecue under the pavilion, walked through the park on paved trails and tested the course. The Robertson County Line band from Bastrop played Bluegrass music as the crowd mingled after the formal presentation.

"It brings joy to my heart to have a public space where people can have fun and get to know each other," said Elizabeth Branch, who donated 4.1 acres to the San Antonio River Authority to build a park in memory of her husband, David Branch, who enjoyed the river.

Branch said that, historically, the property was known for its seasonal gardens and its location in a main thoroughfare. The main house on the property faced Ferry Street, which led to the river.

Branch said she was pleased at the feedback the river authority solicited from the community when determining what the park would feature in each stage of development.

"I hope that feedback and relationship between SARA (the authority) and the people of the community continues," Branch said.

Branch Park in Goliad is the first park solely owned and operated by the San Antonio River Authority.

"Part of the mission of SARA is the development of parks," said Gaylor Oehlke, chairman of the authority. Oehlke said the maintenance for Branch Park will not be expensive because the park will not need an onsite manager or park ranger full time.

Oehlke said he is looking forward to the improvements in the park as the budget allows. The first phase of the park is a 9-hole disc golf course. Plans for park developments include constructing an amphitheater, restoring the historic carriage house on the property and building more permanent restroom facilities.

"The park will not be big, but it will be a nice place for people to enjoy themselves over the weekends," Oehlke said. Currently, there is no fee to use the park for local gatherings, but as the park grows in demand, Oehlke said the authority might adjust that. "SARA will partner with the city and the county as necessary to manage the administrative aspects of the park."

Dorothy Bowman, 67, who was born and raised in Goliad, said she thinks the park will help Goliad be better known in surrounding communities.

"It will be something else to do in the area. It will also increase accessibility to the river," Bowman said. "I think people will be able to bring their families here and hike and enjoy the outdoors."



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