Granite Shoals accepts $500,000 TPWD grant

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

Abandoned granite processing buildings on the Granite Shoals municipal campus are to have a new life as an open-air, covered sports complex, a centerpiece for Quarry Park. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, that funded the Leo Manzano Hike, Bike & Run Trail in the park with about $100,000, will add this grant for $500,000.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

The Granite Shoals City Council at its Tuesday night meeting voted unanimously for final acceptance of the $500,000 Texas Parks & Recreation Department (TPWD) grant for a multi-purpose sports center.

Teachers and families in the city had signed the original petition that accompanied the grant application, but it was two youth soccer coaches—Ulisses Solórzano and Irving Salgado-- who came to urge the council toward acceptance Tuesday night.

“More than 60 percent of Marble Falls soccer players are from Granite Shoals (and) 80 percent of varsity players have been from here,” said Solórzano. “But they need training to experience soccer clubs and college showcases, to get college scholarships. We have to drive to Marble Falls for that.”

Outside the meeting Salgado shared video of the drills for young players that could be done in any weather on practice areas planned for the new center.

“I have been a coach for 15 years and the families that participate have had to drive for all those years,” he said. “This will help.”

The complex is to include also spectator seating, courts for volleyball, basketball, pickle ball and possibly shuffleboard, batting cages and an adjacent softball field. In an agreement with the Marble Falls Independent School District, full-size soccer fields are to be established at Highland Lakes Elementary School, apart from the TPWD grant.

A tightening of state pursestrings interrupted a grand dream for development of Quarry Park that was part of the 2010 Comprehensive Park Plan. A piece of the picture was restored in a TPWD trails grant realized the $100,000 project for the Leo Manzano Hike, Bike and Run Trail. A $60,000 contribution from the Roddick Youth Tennis Foundation and US Tennis Association support rounded out the grant for the trails interpretative center, butterfly garden and, also in former mining buildings, QuickStart Youth Tennis and adult tennis courts.

Despite all the work, the major sports center remained out of reach.

Then, in 2016, the city learned that their grant application stood a good chance for a TPWD Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation Grant for Quarry Park. In March, notice arrived that the city was rated the top project out of 65 eligible applicants statewide and was offered $500,000.

Just over five acres of land and abandoned buildings used in quarry days for cutting and polishing granite were acceptable for an in-kind, 50-50 match for a center worth $1 million.

But acceptance was not immediate, even on Tuesday night. The council waited for an evaluation of the cost of any structural renovation required for mining buildings that are to become covered, open-air sports fields and courts and center for community gatherings.

In response to council concerns, City Manager Ken Nickel presented figures on possible costs for maintenance of structure and potential funding for restroom facilities.

Mark Morren, the only council member absent Tuesday night, Todd Holland and Anita Hisey raised the most frequent questions about whether the project should just be abandoned in favor of neighborhood basketball, soccer or baseball fields in small parks with enough room.

As for one complex, they have had the most concerns about restrooms.

“My concern is that people will come to a first class facility, need to go to the restroom and we'll say, 'The bushes are over there.'

Not only did Nickel report he had recently learned of a Lower Colorado River Authority grant possibility for restrooms, but he had invited Rick Stacey to the meeting to discuss civic club involvement. A member of the Marble Falls Rotary Club and a Rotary district governor, Stacey outlined at least three grant or club funding possibilities for restrooms.

“We built the restrooms at the fields behind the MFISD Administration building in concert with contractors and suppliers 25 years ago,” he said. “The only thing your grant can't fund is restrooms and the only thing (another of our grant options) can fund is restrooms.”

Hisey joined Holland in the final vote for approval but she made it clear she wanted sanitary facilities to go hand-in-glove with center development. Furthermore she was adamant that abandoned restrooms on the ground be better evaluated for rehabilitation before anything was spent on new restrooms.

“Most of our families make only about $37,000 a year,” she said and, regardless of where funds came from,, “I do not want a $50,000 bathroom sitting on our complex.”

Complex plans and specifications for the bidding process were readied as part of the grant application requirements, but Nickel said the project would likely take the full two years of the grant period.

The council approved a letter of agreement with the company that processed the grant, Grand Development Services (GDS), to administrate its completion. The 10 percent fee is to be paid through dedicated park fund.

In other action, the council approved a 20-year development agreement with several of heirs to Mezger property east of the City Limits, commonly known as the North Property (north of Ranch to Market Road 1431 and south of the highway adjacent to Wilderness Cove). Removing any portion of the property from agricultural or wildlife management use would trigger voluntary annexation into the city.

As family heirs in what has been known as the South Property have never been in accord with a development agreement offer, the council moved forward to annex two of three tracts of the property.

“We have been at this (development agreement negotiation) for 13 months,” said council member Shirley King. “I would have much rather have done a development agreement, but at this point we need to annex the portion of the property along the roads and the lake.”

The third tract will be considered at the next council meeting on Nov. 14. Members will meet again to canvass results of the Nov. 7 election on confirmation of road bonds on Nov. 15.

In consideration of the holidays, they agreed on additional meetings Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.

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