“The park is the main reason many of us bought our homes there,” said Seth Freedman, a member of the Grimes Bridge Parkways community. “The problem with Waller Park is that it is really set up to be an active recreation facility.
The issue surfaced at a Public Works committee meeting last week when almost two dozen Grimes Bridge Parkways residents turned out for an agenda item for the engineering contract for the water plant.
“The design was not being approved on Tuesday, however, residents in the surrounding neighborhoods came to the meeting to voice their concern that the conceptual plan for the water plant, and specifically the water tank, will have a negative impact on the park,” said Councilman Rich Dippolito.
The community encompasses all of the homes on Grimes Bridge Road and on streets that connect to the road. Waller Park abuts Grimes Bridge on the east and is adjacent to the water plant site on the west.
The most recent conceptual plan for the new plant moved the water storage tank between two of the Waller Park ball fields, which significantly impacts views in the park, Dippolito said.
That tower, which would be up against the left field fence of the adult softball field, is a big bone of contention for the residents, who feel it is a central and visually unobstructed point in the park.
“It is not the same as the tank location we approved in the original layout,” Freedman said.
After hearing from more than half a dozen speakers from the neighborhoods, the council committee gave them some support.
“The mayor and council approved moving the engineering contract forward; however, we assured the residents that another public meeting will be held to discuss the design,” Dippolito said.
Councilman Kent Igleheart said as part of his motion to approve the contract, “I will include that the consultant will also consider the option preferred by residents, which is inside the current city operational area at the park.”
With a new plant plan, Igleheart said there is a lot of attention being focused on the area surrounding Waller Park.
“We need to make this park a central amenity for the future,” he said.
Dippolito also said he agrees that designing the plant site would be a good chance to review Waller Park’s uses.
“Personally, I see the planning of the new water plant as an opportunity for the city to master plan the park as a whole,” he said. “Through careful planning we can design these facilities to work more efficiently with one another.”
But Councilman Jerry Orlans, council liaison with the recreation and parks department, had doubts.
Initiating a new master plan for the park would be a question for the recreation and parks commission to decide, not council, he said.
“Where are we going to get any passive use there? That park is pretty much maxed out now with active uses. It’s serving the needs of what it was set up for,” Orlans said. “What would we do? Tear up soccer fields we need?”
Dippolito thinks it could be done.
“Waller Park is currently a great amenity for the city with its ball fields, however, with better pedestrian and bicycle connectivity and more inviting passive recreation areas, Waller Park can be a wonderful centerpiece for the community,” he said.