Facing a lack of space in the Sylvia Vela Park, the city of Alton has applied for a grant to help them expand their Josefa Garcia Memorial Park.
Located on the corner of Bryan and Mile 5 Roads, the park could receive $1.5 million to improve and expand the park from five to 55 acres, said Assistant City Manager Jeff Underwood.
“With the way the city is growing, we’ve made improvements to the existing park north of city hall but we’re out of space there,” Underwood said. “The city is growing to the east, we need to find more park area for residents in the east and this expansion seemed like a natural fit. We already had all these tracks of land, there’s an existing track and there’s some vacant land adjacent to it and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to use all of that for our citizens.”
The park is well-known in the community adorned with 21 crosses and a statue of Jesus to commemorate the 21 students on a Mission school district bus who were killed in 1989 after the bus was struck by a delivery truck and sent over an embankment and submerged in a flooded caliche pit.
The grant, which the city applied for last month, will match up to $500,000 that the city will contribute, Underwood said.
The city is also hoping to buy more land adjacent to the park with the help of the city’s economic development corporation. The EDC will provide an additional $500,000, Underwood said.
“We’ll find out if we got the grant by next March and expect to be done with the project within 18 months after approval,” Underwood said, adding the city is interested in highlighting the natural landscape of the park. He said the park will have natural hike and bike trails, overlooks for birdwatching and native shade trees.
“If you come to the park north of city hall, you’ll see that’s it’s heavily attended and usually crowded,” Underwood said. “It’s the most attended park in town so we need a place for our residents to use for recreational purposes. The town is more than ready for this.”