Pro: Park expansion is an investment in the future

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Dec. 9, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:10 a.m.

Maria Rodriguez, 12, of Victoria, flies a kite in the parking lot of Riverside Stadium at Riverside Park.

Maria Rodriguez, 12, of Victoria, flies a kite in the parking lot of Riverside Stadium at Riverside Park.

Opportunity knocks once.

When an acreage adjacent to Riverside Park went up for a foreclosure sale, Victoria City Council jumped on the opportunity, calling special meetings to complete the deal before another buyer came in.

City officials said the potential to expand parks is rare, and this was a good opportunity.

Anna DeLuna, 27, of Victoria, comes to Riverside Park almost every other day with her two children, Wyatt and Kenley.

"We don't have a very big yard, so we come here," she said.

The playground equipment, duck pond and zoo are all big attractions, but mainly it's the open space they enjoy.

She supports the Riverside Park expansion.

"I can think of a few things the money could have gone to, but expanding the park is a good thing as long as it's for more playground equipment or to expand the zoo," she said.

Aaron Moss, 27, who lives near Nursery, brought his 2-year-old daughter, Sarah, to play Thursday at the park.

"Yes, the money could go to other things, but as a city grows, parks become smaller and more rare," he said. "It's a drastic example, but New York City makes it a point to sustain Central Park."

During the final vote of the purchase, Mayor Will Armstrong compared the effort to that idea that the world's greatest cities are defined by the parks.

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Cochran said in the past seven years, elected officials have taken a strong interest in promoting quality-of-life projects.

"It's a significant balance that they have to - not juggle - but consider every time the streets, parks or library" comes up, Cochran said.

He said part of the biggest force behind it is population growth.

"We're an old community, and we have some water lines that are 50 to 75 years old, streets that need to be repaired," Cochran said. "It is a true balance, but people are moving in from other parts of the country who are used to nice amenities in the parks and libraries, and they're demanding it."

Councilman Paul Polasek said the land deal was an opportunity they "couldn't pass up."

Polasek defends the decision, saying the council is not in the habit of knee-jerk purchases. The General Fund balance, which was used in this deal, exists so the council can act in the best interest of the residents, he said.

"I think council will always keep an eye out for the possibility to expand Riverside," Polasek said.

Councilman Emett Alvarez said there is a balance between capital improvement projects that are essential services and projects that are quality-of-life matters.

"Sometimes opportunities present themselves and you have to act on them or pass on them," Alvarez said.

He said part of the reasoning behind the purchase was keeping unattractive activities from happening next to the park. He said there was a fear that the property could become an equipment yard for heavy machinery and pipes.

"In this particular instance ... we were all supportive of it and we acted," he said. "That opportunity may not have presented itself for decades to come."

Alvarez said the land can be used to address parking issues or be a transitional location for the public works department while the new building on Ben Jordan Street is constructed.

"We still have limited resources, and sometimes things take a back burner when other things present themselves," Alvarez said. "I'm of the opinion that we bite off as much as we can chew per year and do what we can afford."

CON: City should first maintain what it has click HERE



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