HARKER HEIGHTS — Set back from Comanche Gap Road, a faded red and blue wood sign for Comanche Gap Park stands barely visible amid a backdrop of brush, tall grass and an aging homestead.
Passers-by might not realize the 19-acre site encompasses a portion of one of the oldest western Indian trails, which allowed Comanches to retreat from eventual Bell County settlers.
At Tuesday’s City Council workshop, officials discussed dedicating the southernmost 4 to 5 acres of the city land to the 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 would be able to interact with life-sized exhibits, some climbable.
“When a school comes on a tour, they take a whole class,” Library Director Lisa Youngblood said. “Interactive is the way to go; that’s how they’ll remember it.”
Luck said the park should include at least 60 parking spaces and a performance amphitheater.
The site plan should tie history into nature, Councilman Spencer Smith said.
“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 between Smith’s and Luck’s ideas.
“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 said the plan was too commercialized, and added that Comanche Gap should specifically highlight Harker Heights.
“There is really no museum in our area,” Mayor Pro Tem Rob Robinson said.
“There isn’t any large view of this area’s history available, unless the museum does it.”
Aycock expressed vandalism concerns.
Police Chief Mike Gentry raised the possibility of remote crime monitoring at the site, and said patrols could visit the facility after hours.
Planning and Development Director Fred Morris said constructing an amphitheater could spur immediate growth.
“I like the idea of getting the base infrastructure into place; then you can grow it over time.”