New Kendall County Parks Initiative
By Brent Evans
There has been some progress on parkland acquisition for Kendall County. Seventeen years ago, the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust and Trust for Public Land partnered with Kendall County on a parks project, resulting in three County Parks and a County Parks Department. The Texas Environmental Excellence Award recognized the collaboration between the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust and Kendall County.
This is one of the ways our land trust has been partnering with the community. Last year, Judge Lux and Commissioners were approached to provide a request for technical assistance to the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust to develop a feasibility study for the acquisition of additional parkland for Kendall County.
Then the COVID epidemic changed everything, and all those plans were left on hold, but our nature centers and parks have been used more than ever, and the public appreciates them more.
The Kendall County Parks Advisory Board of Appointees from all county precincts have concluded that parkland acquisition is one of their highest priorities.
Through talks with Ernest Cook and Ben Eldredge, it appeared to be a good possibility that Trust for Public Land & the Nature Conservancy could access funds from Foundations and Institutions that would help finance such a study with matching grants. They are now beginning work to assist the County in developing a successful strategy for additional parkland and natural areas.
The feasibility study would include a poll of likely voters, demographics research, results in interpretation, recommendations for timing of a possible Bond measure, exploration of a campaign for donated land, messaging, and presentation of results.
And, in a special meeting about the distribution of COVID-19 Recovery Funds for the County, the Commissioners earmarked $25,000 of Recovery Funds to be used as matching funds with the Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy to develop a feasibility study for Kendall County. This study could be helpful to the county for years to come in acquiring and developing new parkland for public access.
Meanwhile, the Kendall County Parks Department has been working on a 10-Year Comprehensive Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan. It has been seeking feedback from park users on what the public would like to see available in the county pertaining to parks, recreation, and open spaces. The survey has been available on their website.
What about Donating Land for Parks?
Due to the drastic growth and development of the Hill Country and the Covid-19 pandemic, our community has seen an increased demand for parks and natural area access. Our parks are being used now more than ever. Unfortunately, this has also made parkland more expensive for the county to acquire. Counties have very limited resources, and even with bond elections, the funds alone are often not sufficient to keep up with the demand. One possible solution is the county’s procurement of donated land.
Many of the parks in the Hill Country have been made possible by generous donations from local landowners. This contribution, combined with funds from local government and the occasional grant, result in our local parks. This enhances the community and allows the landowner to create a living legacy for their family land.
There are numerous benefits for landowners considering donation:
- A family’s history can be preserved.
- Charitable donations of conserved land, either through full value or a “bargain sale,” can provide substantial tax incentives.
- Some landowners who choose to donate their land have the option to live on the property and receive tax savings.
- The quality and integrity of the land are maintained.
Lady Bird Johnson was instrumental in procuring land donations for parks in the Hill Country through her family and others. “In my own experience, nature was encountered most intimately when I left the city to go to our ranch. Once there, I quickly fell in tune with the great rhythms of life. I knew whether the sky held a new moon or a full moon, or the dark of the moon. When storms came, I thrilled to the crackle of lightning and the majesty of thunder. I rediscovered a sense of caring and a sense of smell from the perfume of blossoms and grasses after a rain. This participation in the seasons and the weather is one of the most vital and renewing experiences of life – too important to be reserved for vacations for the few.” – Lady Bird Johnson, Heartland Newsletter
A sub-committee of the Kendall County Parks Advisory Board will soon explore potential parkland options through land donations. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about donating land for a park, contact Brent Evans at (210) 601-4599 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Parks are said to be poetry that people write upon the land. Visit a county park sometime soon and find out why.