Roving Reporter | "Rockport Parks Getting Ready for Residents" by Text and 10 Photos by Jeanette Larson

Getting the children's pool ready for use
The City of Rockport Parks Board held its first post-Harvey meeting on Monday, September 25, 2017. The August meeting had been cancelled. The primary item of business on the agenda was a report on the status of damage and repairs at all of the city's parks. Every park in Rockport suffered damage, ranging from minor debris to extensive need for repairs.

The Aquatic Park and Skate Center suffered extensive loss of trees but minimal fence damage. Parks director Rick Martinez estimates that 30-40% of the trees are gone, although many smaller trees were not damaged. There is a lot of debris in the pool and the children's pool was drained to facilitate cleaning. The interior offices and women's restroom have water and wind damage that is repairable. The diving boards need to be replaced. Some items are under warranty and will be replaced by the vendors. It is estimated that it will take another 4-6 weeks for everything to be ready for use, although the pools may open sooner.

Memorial Park playscape
Memorial Park suffered extensive damage and is currently closed. Trail lights, voice boxes, ball field lighting, and the scoreboards were severely damaged or destroyed. There is extensive damage to the asphalt trails throughout the park, exacerbated by the need to allow access for heavy equipment to remove tree limbs and debris. Contractors are coming in and out to remove debris and make repairs and Martinez asked that volunteers hold off on helping until safety issues are resolved. The front of the park will be cleared and repaired first, allowing limited use as soon as possible. Help has been provided by Corpus Christi Parks Department and several fire departments from around the state. The newly installed bathrooms held up well although the Little League bathrooms were destroyed. Insurance will cover much of the repairs. Board members questioned whether donations were being sought for repairs and replacement. Martinez replied that there is a fund for the dog park that was established several years ago and that anyone wanting to support a specific park financially can contact the city finance office.

Memorial Park's new bathrooms fared well
The Bay Education Center must be gutted due to heavy mold from water that entered the building. The roof was compromised and many exterior windows were broken. The exhibits are being removed for protection. Insurance will cover most of the repairs and remodeling.

The major hit at Zachery Taylor Park is to the historical tree. For now it has been braced but 80% of the canopy is gone. Staff are working to try to save the tree but it may not be possible. There was also heavy sign and fencing damage and the gazebo was destroyed. Pride Park suffered significant debris damage and heavy damage to the landscaped areas. Compass Rose Park lost all but one of the character palms, as well as the gazebo. Some of the palms may be replaced with palms that were donated for the proposed Sports Complex.

Parks Staff Jackie Hattenbach (l) and Rick Martinez (r)
Parks Staff  Joe Riekers (l) and George Bennett (r) 
McDonalds Park had some debris but fared well. Trees and the Community Gardens were heavily damaged at Mathis Park but Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists have been working to clean up those areas. The Bent Oaks property suffered extensive damage to the iconic oaks and there is debris scattered across the property. Board member Debra Corpra noted that while 20-30% of the trees were lost, the rookery is fine. This will be especially important during the winter and spring nesting season due to the extensive loss of habitat at the Little Bay Rookery. The playground equipment at Spenser Park, recently refurbished and upgraded, was relatively unscathed although, like everywhere else, there is tree damage. The Tule Hike and Bike Trail will require a lot of work to remove large trees that were uprooted and limbs that are blocking the trail. There is also extensive sign damage throughout the trail. Downtown flower pots were removed before the storm hit although they were stored at Memorial Park where they were damaged by toppled trees. Some pots remain undamaged while others are lost. The Rose Garden suffered minimal damage other than scattered debris.

Martinez noted that he is currently working with a staff of three or four people but they are trying to make a difference every day. He acknowledged and expressed appreciations for the help received from other cities. Contractors are also helping the recovery efforts, which, although moving slowly, are moving forward.

Missing diving boards and shelters 

Compass Rose Park

Bent Oaks property

Bent Oaks property

Art at McDonald's park was protected from the storm

Note: Author Jeanette Larson is a member of the Parks Board.

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