While College Station City Council members aren’t sure at this point exactly what amenities, if any, should be added to Eastgate’s Thomas Park, they were positive on Thursday about what they don’t want to see.
A dog park and a splash pad were crossed off the list of potential amenities that were floated for the roughly 14-acre linear park east of Texas Avenue. Dozens of residents who turned out to Thursday’s City Council meeting also made their feelings clear. Some wore aquamarine T-shirts that read “#poolnotpoop” — the latter concern was not addressed directly, though — advocating for a swimming pool in some form at the park.
The discussion stems from the council’s decision in August to close the park’s pool, which an audit found had been losing thousands of gallons of water per month and didn’t meet state and local codes. Many residents have pushed for a new pool to be built at the site, but the majority of council members said they were hesitant to make any decisions until the city’s financial forecast for the upcoming fiscal year becomes more clear.
Proposed legislation that aims to curb skyrocketing property taxes by limiting how much money local governments can collect without voter approval is one point of concern for council members. A new replacement pool at the park would cost around $2 million, not including upgraded parking that likely would need to come with it. Whether the city would be better off investing in a larger community pool that would benefit more residents was another question raised by Mayor Karl Mooney.
City staff had previously recommended a splash pad replace the pool at Thomas Park, and the fiscal year 2019 budget included
$1 million for such a project. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voted earlier this month to recommend that the $1 million be spent on a covered tennis court, a dog park and two covered picnic tables. Money that isn’t spent this year will roll over to next fiscal year.
A number of improvements to the park, which is surrounded by single-family homes, are already planned. About $275,000 is being invested in the existing pavilion and playground upgrades. Other potential future amenities that weren’t nixed by the council — but also weren’t given unanimous support — include sheltered picnic areas, shade structures for the basketball and tennis courts and a parking lot expansion.
Several council members expressed a desire for a more comprehensive review of the park or a citywide aquatic needs study. An audit of the Thomas Park pool found that in addition to its antiquated design and code noncompliance, the pool lost an estimated 200,000 gallons of water each month due to cracks in the shell, drains and joints. The necessary repairs to keep the pool open would have cost around $685,000, while replacing it with a similar neighborhood swimming pool would have an estimated $2 million price tag.