Lockhart City Park improvements arrive just in time
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
When the City of Lockhart was awarded a parks improvement grant in 2019, they had no idea a pandemic was around the corner and people would be flocking to outdoor parks and facilities.
It turned out to be a fortuitous win.
The construction is now over, and with the pandemic restrictions still in place, the park improvements are a way for residents to enjoy socially distanced, outdoor activities.
LPR took a stroll around the park with Parks/Cemetery Manager Chris Sager to get an overview of the improvements and see your city tax dollars hard at work.
The largest improvement at City Park is the 10-foot-wide paved walking/biking trail around the pond. The trail, compliments of a grant through Saint David’s Foundation, is ADA complaint and connects to the first phase at Highway 183 which was completed in 2019.
Now residents can walk, bike, or scooter their way on a smooth paved surface around the pond, and connect to the trail behind Kreuz Market, and three other parks in the area.
Sager said he did not have a measurement for how long the path is quite yet, as construction had just finished. But he hopes to have a kiosk up soon letting residents know how many laps around the pond would be a mile.
Along the new trail the parks department installed wood panels to display pages from children’s books. Parents can walk with their kids along the trail, stopping to read one page at a time. It an activity that allows for social distancing, exercise, and learning in one.
“It’s something for the kids to come out here, utilize the new trail, as well as get a little education,” Sager said.
The idea is a collaboration between the city and the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, giving the city’s smallest residents a new nature-inspired story to read every two weeks. The library provides the laminated book sheets, and the city uses their tools to remove the old story and place the new.
Sager admitted when he first installed the panels he worried about vandalism. But other than wind from a few strong storms, the stories have remained untouched.
“I don’t want to put anything out here that’s going to get destroyed in a week. It’s heartbreaking when that happens,” Sager said. “But it hasn’t! That’s been nice.”
The installation of the new fountain in the pond was completed just prior to Christmas. It offers something visually appealing to visitors of the part, and helps the fish living in the water.
The fountain serves as an aerator, which adds dissolved oxygen to the water.
“The problem we were having is that the dissolved oxygen was getting depleted,” Sager said. “There wasn’t enough turning in the pond, so we proposed to get an aerator/fountain. It gets two birds with one stone.”
The fountain came with the added bonus of lights which turn on at night.
“We were lucky enough to get it with lights as well, so at night it’s gorgeous,” Sager said. “I think it really does complete it.”
With the curfew set for 11 p.m. at City Park, residents can enjoy the park after the sun goes down thanks to installed lights. During renovations last year the city upgraded the current fixtures to LED lights.
The upgrades mean the city is spending less on electricity and getting a brighter light. Sager said it also deters vandals, which he reports the city has not seen much of. He said the city hopes to install more lights to some of the dimmer portions of the park, but funding has not been allocated by City Council as of yet.
On the side of newly-paved City Park Road across from the pond sits tall grass, logs, and even some pieces of concrete. No, it’s not trash left by a careless citizen. It’s actually part of the Lockhart City Rain Park which helps stop pollutants from reaching Town Branch creek.
“It breaks up the water so it’s not just rushing through here and digging in and cutting into the ground,” Sager said.
Slowing the water down forces much of it into the ground where organisms and bacteria naturally break down pollutants.
The project is a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, and Plum Creek Watershed Partnership. It includes building a riparian buffer zone along the edge of the stream.
To create the buffer, “grow zones” have been created near the creek. The city lets the grass grow to provide filtration, as well as help shield against erosion near the creek.
“I have an environmental background and any time I can help protect that beautiful creek back there, I’m going to,” Sager said.
The renovations to City Park will continue in 2021. Sager reported he is meeting with contractors to make badly needed upgrades to the restrooms. The renovations will get them up to newer ADA codes, and provide new fixtures.
Sager did not have an exact date for completion but did say—depending on the contractor—it would likely be completed in the summer months.
The city will also be adding a dog park in the space across from the skate park. Sager said the plans for the park include two sides, one for large breeds, and one for small. They plan to install doggie water fountains, and some jumps and rings for dogs to exercise on.
He did not have an estimated time for completion but is currently getting bids for equipment. Once the equipment arrives, city employees would be able to do the installation, so there would be no waiting on a contractor.
“We are putting a lot of work and a lot of money into it,” Sager said. “I hope people utilize it and enjoy it.”