First in a Series

After months of work, the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan is ready for review and adoption by the Waxahachie City Council.

Receiving the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission during its meeting Wednesday, the plan represents the work of numerous city entities - including the parks board and the parks and recreation department - and a consulting team led by Francois de Kock of Halff Associates Inc.

The push for the master plan was begun by former council members Ron Ansell and Jay Barksdale, City Manager Paul Stevens said, recalling that at the time, the city was applying for a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant for the Hike and Bike Trail.

“Back then, we almost didn’t get the grant because we didn’t have a master plan,” Stevens said, saying however there is a more important purpose for the plan than applying for grants.

“I really think that long term, the Metroplex is going to continue to grow and we’re going to become much more urban and much more dense, and we’re going to be like a big city where you really need that space for parks and green space,” Stevens said. “I think it’s important to start spelling those things out now so that when we do start having that growth, we’ve said, ‘Before we fill up with people, let’s keep some property here so people can have green space,’ and I think long term those things will become very important.”

John Smith, director of parks and recreation, said the need for park space is an issue the city has already begun to face.

“We need more park space like Getzendaner,” Smith said. “It fills up very fast, the tables are all taken and we have people who have to leave to find other places.”

“Sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays when the weather is nice, Getzendaner Park is just packed,” Stevens said. “It’s amazing how many people are down there.”

According to the plan, the needs assessment is “the most critical component of the parks master planning effort,” with the plan noting four specific immediate needs: additional land acquisition for parks, development of land already acquired, renovation of existing parks and policies to ensure protection of open space.

At present population levels, the plan calls for 532 acres of park space, based upon a target of 20 acres per 1,000 residents.

The city currently has 308 acres of green space, 0.3 percent of its 89,400 acres in the city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction.

By comparison, the city of Dallas dedicates 10 percent of its acreage to park space, which is above the national and Metroplex averages of 8.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.

Translating those percentages to Waxahachie would dictate from 4,290 to 8,940 acres of park space. However, those numbers are beyond what Waxahachie aims to accomplish under this master plan.

By 2015, when the city’s population is expected to reach more than 38,000, Waxahachie will need 767 acres of space, according to the plan.

At full build-out conditions, when the city’s population is about 125,000, it will need 2,500 acres.

These numbers do not include space for some of the elements proposed in the plan, such as a large, several-thousand-acre regional park between Waxahachie and Midlothian or nature preserves.

Goals

With the needs assessment in mind, the plan sets forth eight specific goals for the city and its parks:

provide a variety of recreation facilities and programs to meet the ultimate recreational needs and desires of the city’s growing population create a park system that will improve the physical form and appearance of the city preserve and enhance Waxahachie’s open space, cultural landscapes and natural resources, especially areas with topography change and/or indigenous tree cover and land prone to flooding provide an open space system which links parks, schools, greenbelts, open spaces and cultural landscapes provide a tool to coordinate multi-jurisdictional efforts with respect to issues that affect recreational opportunities in the community continue to maintain all of the Waxahachie parks and recreational facilities in a superior and sustainable condition develop other funding mechanisms to help supplement the city’s limited funding resources include a resident participation process in all ongoing park planning and design, as well as updating of the parks master plan.

E-mail Anthony at anthony.trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com