The Riverwalk Project was the focus of many discussions during Monday night’s city council meeting.
Michael Buckley with eHT Engineers presented Phase I drawings of the project to the council.
The walkway would include portions paved with crushed granite, wood and concrete, hoping to keep the trail as natural as possible. Part of the walkway would also wind through trees and a team of master naturalist will help with the landscaping.
Other features include two designated fishing areas, a wooden deck overlooking the river, a small pedestrian bridge and a floating spray fountain.
A canoe launch site is also planned, but the location was debated during the meeting.
The launch site was marked down stream with the only possible parking area back at Heritage Park. Buckley said the actual launch site could be moved, but many were concerned the banks at Heritage Park were too steep.
One of the unresolved issues was the parking spot tentatively planned for Heritage Park.
Somervell County Judge Walter Maynard said he had been advised that the county could not legally give the land away or grant an easement. He also said an interlocal agreement was not legally possible because such agreements must be recallable every 12 months. In other words, because the proposed parking area would be a permanent fixture, the only option may be to sell the land outright to the city.
City Superintendent Ronald Bruce had addressed the Somervell County Commissioner’s Court Monday morning about using Heritage Park for parking. They decided an area approximately 20-feet by 375-feet were have to be appraised for fair market value before the county could sell the area to the city.
Maynard said the court supports the project and will do all it can to help. They simply want to make sure they are proceeding legally.
Karen Richardson from the preservation board and Dewey Ratliff, Bosque County emergency coordinator, presented an option for a larger bridge connecting Walnut Street to Heritage Park.
The bridge is 104 years old and is located in Bosque County. The pilings on the bridge were damaged in last year’s floods, however Ratliff said the bridge itself was not.
The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has urged the county to remove the 220-foot bridge so that it does not collapse and damage a newer bridge downstream. The bridge cannot be simply torn down because the Texas Historical Commission placed the old bridge on a protected list in the 1990s.
FEMA has offered to pay 75-percent of the cost to relocate the bridge and Bosque County would cover the remaining 25-percent. Somervell County would be responsible for costs to restore the bridge.
Richardson said grants are available to help offset those costs.
Margaret Drake said a new pre-fabricated bridge could cost about $600,000.
Richardson said with the older bridge, not only may costs be lower, but also they would “really have something special” with the historical bridge.
Drake requested that the council request $11,000 from the 4B Committee to hire an engineer to examine the bridge.
Helen Kerwin addressed the council regarding the cul-de-sac planned for the Riverwalk. Plans include an area 80 feet across for the cul-de-sac. She was concerned that would sacrifice some of the trees in the area and would detract from the overall beauty and vision of the Riverwalk.
She said there has been a single-lane turn-around there for the last 15 years and felt like that would be large enough to allow emergency vehicle access without making aesthetic sacrifices.
Councilwoman Barbara Mitchell thought a smaller turn-around would also deter illegal parking.
Kerwin also asked if the council would consider reworking drainage system around the planned cul-de-sac. Storm water run-off from Summit Ridge is creating a problem on neighboring properties and Kerwin was concerned the cul-de-sac would complicate the matter.
The council agreed to have an engineer review the cul-de-sac plans and drainage. If the engineer felt a single-lane turn-around would provide enough room then they would approve the changes.