Even though Mission City Council and ARKiiFORM, LLC have spent months adjusting the phase 1 design of the all-inclusive Lions Park, the project is moving along more rapidly than usual, according to Parks & Recreation Director Brad Bentsen.
“I know a situation like this, it seems like it’s taking forever,” Bentsen said at the Feb. 17 workshop. “But in reality we’re moving pretty fast on it because a project like this, in any normal situation, would probably take three years, five years, maybe, to do it. But we’ve been making some good leeway.”
At the workshop, lead architect Charlie Garcia III presented a design proposal that included additional handicap parking, corridor archways mirroring the profile of La Lomita chapel, a Bankshot court (specialized basketball court), a restroom expansion, an outdoor workout area and possible gaming or seating areas throughout the park. The council approved the design and authorization to solicit proposals for construction at the Feb. 22 city council meeting.
“If we need to make modifications as we go along, we’ll do the amendments that we need to do to get the park right the way we want it for all children,” Mayor Armando O’Caña said.
There is no proposed schedule for when the city will break ground on the all-inclusive park. Garcia gave an estimated four to six-week timeline to finalize the plans for phase 1. The city is also working on a timeline for putting up new signage at the park on 1500 E. Kika De La Garza Loop.
However, there are three components of the project that cannot undergo construction until the city receives word from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. A grant was submitted to Texas Parks to help fund the splash pad, the play area and the hike and bike trail. City Manager Randy Perez said they are advised to not start any demolition or construction on those three components to avoid jeopardizing grant funding. Bentsen said he should know by late March if the grant will be awarded, but even so, there would still be another 45-60 days of preparatory paperwork time to follow. An environmental study and a historical study also have to take place before the city is able to do anything. But the grant does not stop the city from breaking ground on other components of the park.
“We can work it out while we’re waiting for the [grant], so we can at least turn some dirt out there, after we install that sign,” O’Caña said. “We want the public to know there’s something positive happening for our children.”
The three-phase project is still estimated to cost $2.5 million, with the grant funding at $750,000 to be matched by the city. The non grant portion of the project is being funded through a local bond.
Lions Park will be Mission’s first all-inclusive park. It’s the first project in the city’s attempt to create more accessible spaces for people with disabilities. The city manager stated that administrators are in the process of making the same kind of improvements to other parks in the community. In a Feb. 7, 2020 article in the Progress Times, Bentsen stated that the need for an inclusive playscape has been brought forward by residents since he became the Parks & Recreation director.
At the most recent city council meeting, local activist and Mission resident Maria Peña Salinas addressed the council in a public comment regarding accessibility. She stated that her grandson with a disability doesn’t have the means to get into or around some of the local facilities, including Tom Landry Stadium, the Center for Education and Economic Development and the Mission Historical Museum.
“That’s a sin and that’s a crime,” Salinas said heatedly. “Please fix that. Stop focusing on bridges, stop focusing on trains. Focus on the needs of your people.”
Tom Landry Stadium underwent construction in 2017 to meet compliance with the Americans Disability Act, but the stadium closed last year due to structural issues that came to light after completion.
City Manager Randy Perez said the city will look into Salinas’s concerns and address them as needed.