Parks Department Creates 5-Year Improvement Plan – Progress Times
This article originally appeared in the June 3 issue of Progress Times.
The Mission Parks and Recreation Department surveyed the community to help develop its five-year improvement plan for the 24 parks and approximately 240 acres. After receiving 585 surveys, the city compiled a list of top 10 priorities for improving parks and recreation based on community feedback.
The list of the top 10 priorities of the master plan is as follows:
- amenities in the parks
- playground equipment
- water parks
- picnic areas
- natural parks
- new parks
- indoor recreation center
- dog parks
Parks and Recreation Director Brad Bentsen said his department has reached out to community members involved in different local activities and asked them to email people around them to let them know about the investigation. Mission’s website also featured a newsletter for the quiz, the city posted reminders on social media and placed ads in the Progress Times newspaper. The park service held a public forum to gather feedback in person.
Although Bentsen said he was grateful for the 585 returned polls, he hoped to receive 1,000 to 1,500 polls to more accurately reflect Mission’s population of about 86,000 people.
The Parks Department‘s five-year plan is part of a larger 10-year plan the city created for the state in 2016. And while the state doesn’t require updates, the five-year plan is helping to increase Mission’s chances of getting grants through Texas. Department of Parks and Wildlife.
This year, the parks budget is $3.9 million, which does not include the aquatics and recreation budget. Last year it was $3.3 million. According to Bentsen, in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, about 30% of the budget came from grants. In 2016-2017, grants represented approximately 40% of the budget.
Even though construction over the past two years has been minimal due to the pandemic, the city has provided funding to update aspects of Mission Parks since Bentsen became its superintendent seven years ago. Bentsen said it added a 16-court tennis center, two dog parks, 12 picnic structures and new parking spaces, among other improvements. They also sanded, primed and painted picnic shelters and pavilions. Additionally, they worked to repair and replace park signs and add butterfly gardens. The Parks Department is also working with the Public Works Department to eradicate weeds, but Bentsen still wants to be able to do more.
“A lot of our playground equipment is outdated and obsolete. So if something breaks on some of our playground equipment, we can’t order replacement parts,” the director of parks and recreation said. The average age of equipment in our fleet is probably around  year. And that hurts. Of course we like to improve the maintenance of our parks, but it takes funds for fertilization and chemicals to reduce weeds, but new playground equipment is really important.
In the recent May 7 elections, mayoral and city council candidates Victor Anzalduas and Noel Salinas said voters expressed a desire to see park improvements in Mission. As Anzaldua campaigned, he said people were talking about cracked slides and broken swings. Salinas himself said he noticed parks were a problem, which is one of the reasons he ran for city council.
“My family, I have young children. We travel; I like to travel. Wherever we go, we tend to look for parks; we are people who like to be outdoors,” Salinas said in an interview in April. “So wherever we travel, we try to find a nice park to go and hang out. And, unfortunately, here in Mission, our parks are really disgusting. I always take my children, but they are naughty. They don’t follow them. »
Bentsen said his department is doing what it can to maintain and meet the needs of the community, but there’s not much they can do given the amount of funding and staff.
“It takes money, and I guess… an increased budget would help. We need more staff and we need a bigger budget,” he said.
With the five-year improvement plan, the parks department would like to add lights to picnic pavilions and provide more trail lights. The department is also investigating trail interconnectivity in the city and towns east and west of Mission.
Parks and Rec submitted the five-year plan to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife this week, and they can submit grant applications as early as August.
“We know what kind of grants we want to apply for, so that gives us time until August to do our paperwork and start working on grant applications to submit them by August,” Bentsen said. “And now that we have our master plan and our five-year review, that will help us.”