At least 30 Longview residents and municipal staff attended a neighborhood meeting Tuesday about upcoming improvements to Lois Jackson Park.
It was the first of six meetings during the next five weeks in which city staff will gather input on how to spend $7.4 million in bonds at several parks around town.
“It’s our tax money,” Longview parent Phillip Foster said, “so if we have the opportunity to kind of persuade one way or another, it could help.”
City staff is collecting public input that will be used, along with studies, engineering and surveying, to put together a final plan of improvements for Lois Jackson, Stamper/Womack, Spring Creek, Patterson and McWhorter parks, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Caron said. Those parks were identified for improvements in the $24.71 million parks bond proposition that voters approved in November.
He expects the final plan to be complete around Thanksgiving and for construction to take a year to 18 months beginning next spring.
Brian Kelsey, a father of two children, said he takes his family to Lois Jackson Park often. In fact, Caron said the park is the most frequented in the city behind the Lear Park sports complex.
Kelsey most likes a proposal for a new restroom at Lois Jackson, saying that restrooms and drinking facilities allow guests to stay at a park for a more extended period of time.
“I’m just looking here at the alternate amenities, which just sparks the imagination,” Kelsey said. “The plan as you see it here looks decent.”
Foster was among more than a dozen people at Tuesday’s meeting who want the city to consider building a skate park with part of the bond funds.
Earlier Tuesday, Brian Dodson sent a text to several residents asking them to come to the meeting at Church of the Nazarene if they wanted to voice support for a skate park and other amenities, such as bicycle pump tracks. A pump track is a small, looping trail of rollers, banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by “pumping” though body movements instead of pedaling.
Dodson has been outspoken at City Council and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meetings about building a skate park, and he has led a fundraising campaign to construct a skate park that is tentatively being considered for Ingram Park.
“We asked the city to pay for half of the skate park ... for our youth,” Dodson said in the text message.
“Forty thousand dollars is only 0.5 percent of the $7.4 million, which they need help spending, apparently, and have not approved our $40,000,” he said. “They want public input on how to improve our parks. We believe the well-being and securing the safety of our youth who enjoy action sports by building a skate park should be the number one priority.”
A skate park also was Foster’s suggestion Tuesday evening.
“I’m a fan of skateboarding, and I have to travel all the way to Tyler just to skateboard,” said Foster, a father of four children ages 17 months to 9 years. “Everywhere else, it’s illegal or not accessible. Also, I want a chance to teach my kids how to skateboard, and Tyler is quite a drive.”
Skating enthusiasts Tamara Trejo, J.T. Rogers and Jordan Rogers approached City Manager Keith Bonds to ask that the city consider building a skate park. The nearest skate parks are in Kilgore, Henderson and Tyler, they said.
Trejo suggested a racquetball court at Lois Jackson Park be converted into a facility for skateboarding and biking.
“We really do need a skate park here,” Jordan Rogers said, “to keep people from skating on stuff that they’re not supposed to be skating on.”