Economic conditions and a tight city budget have affected the Cleburne Parks Department just as they’ve affected other city departments, Public Development Services Director Jody Butler told council members during a recent update on the department.
Several projects remain on a wish list, to be undertaken as time and finances allow while several have been completed or remain in progress, Butler said.
Mayor Scott Cain commended the city’s park workers for doing a good job under financial and staffing constraints.
The employees, five full time and one part time, maintain about 415 acres of city property, Butler said. In addition to the city’s several parks, some of those areas include the Booker T. Washington Recreational and Community Center, the Cleburne Conference Center, Cletran offices and several street medians.
“We’d like to add more employees,” Butler said. “But, right now, the budget hurts us in that respect.”
Nonetheless, parks workers stay busy, Butler said.
Projects completed or under way include updating or repairing lighting at Carver and Hulen parks and replacing the pea gravel in all the park playground areas with engineered wood fiber. Workers replaced or repaired several concrete picnic tables and benches incorporating treated lumber to increase durability and cut costs.
Partnerships are being created between the city and Cleburne ISD and other groups to encourage projects and usage of Winston Patrick McGregor Park, Parks Supervisor Burton Barr said.
“The city horticulturist, Grace Clanton, works with the schools on a lot of those projects,” Barr said. “The students work on projects such as creating areas representing the different ecological regions of the state. We also have several home-school groups who do different projects out there and several other volunteer-based groups.”
Such partnerships play into the goal of the park, he said, which was donated to the city several years ago. The plan, Butler and other city officials have said, is for McGregor Park to be an ever-evolving place of both quiet solitude and an ongoing area of botanical research and development.
Work is scheduled to start soon on construction of an honor monument in the park’s west side, an area to honor local firefighters, law enforcement officials and veterans and to commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.
The city has also at times partnered with Boy Scouts working on their Eagle Scout projects.
“Basically, if they come to us with a project and we approve it, we sign a contract with them, which is, if you complete this project, we’ll sign off on your [Eagle Scout] paperwork,” Butler said.
Scouts have worked on projects in Butner, Bradshaw and Byron Stewart parks, Butler said.
A recently constructed mountain bike trail about two miles long in Byron Stewart Park represents one of the more ambitious projects of late, Butler said.
Open about a month, signs go up soon to mark the path, Butler said, adding that the route is intended solely for mountain bikes, no motorcycles allowed.
Work on a walking trail, also about two miles long, should begin in spring and, city leaders hope, complete in summer. A Texas Parks & Wildlife Department grant funded both projects.
Long range plans, once again as financing becomes available, call for extending the walking path completely around Lake Pat Cleburne, one of the recommendations in a master plan study of the lake completed several years ago.
A walking path circling Lake Pat is but one of the city’s long range projects addressing both Lake Pat and other city parks. Plans also call for adding or repairing pavilions, tables and grills at all parks and improving and expanding parking and the boat ramp areas at Lake Pat.
Bathrooms are a challenge; plans call for replacing them at Carver and Hulen parks and adding them to Kirtley and Bryon Stewart parks at Lake Pat.
“Vandalism is a big problem with the bathrooms at Hulen and Carver parks, people blocking up drains, ripping sinks and plumbing from the wall,” Butler said. “We hope to eventually put new bathroom buildings in with stainless steel sinks and fixtures, which will at least be more difficult to vandalize.
“The other part there is to maintain the parks and other areas as best we can and encourage people to use them.
“The more people who use them, the more likely it is the ones who cause the vandalism and crime will go away.”