At Tuesday’s public hearing, no residents spoke about the proposed budget, which includes a continuance of the current property tax rate of 67.7 cents per $100 valuation into fiscal year 2014.
After a short budget segment at the Harker Heights City Council workshop, officials discussed dedicating the southernmost 4 to 5 acres of the 19-acre Comanche Gap Park to recreation and preservation of Bell County heritage.
Officials and designer Brent Luck discussed circulating a half-mile trail through replicas of a Conestoga wagon, Indian cave dwelling, hog farm, train station, Camp Hood, a cabin and a model of Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir Dam.
Under the current plan, children could interact with life-sized exhibits, some climbable.
“The biggest visitors are probably going to be school children,” City Manager Steve Carpenter said.
Special events and out-of-town company should bring the occasional adult visitor, he said.
The park will include at least 60 parking spaces and a performance amphitheater, Luck said.
The site plan should tie history into nature, Councilman Spencer Smith said. The current plan is too commercial, and Comanche Gap should specifically highlight Harker Heights.
“How many places do we have where people can go, have a picnic, have trees, have just a place to relax?” Smith said. “There’s all that potential.”
Mayor Mike Aycock suggested a collaborative approach.
“I think we could marry the two ideas back there pretty easily,” Aycock said. “You have to have something to draw people to it. ... If you want to (walk) off on your own, you can go off on your own. ... If you have 30 kids running around, you’ve got to be able to watch them. You can’t have trails and cut them loose.”
Councilman Pat Christ said the park could be a destination point and educate kids, especially those in mobile military families.
Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Rob Robinson questioned the inclusion of military history in the park plan.
“We’re not trying to re-create any of the museums that are on the base,” Luck said. “This gives us the opportunity to talk about Indians and how they used the Lampasas River.”
Aycock expressed vandalism concerns. Police Chief Mike Gentry proposed remote crime monitoring, and said officers could patrol the facility after business hours.
Planning and Development Director Fred Morris said constructing an amphitheater could spur immediate growth.
“I think we need to get started,” Robinson said. “The city has done something first class.”