Presidio Municipal Development District paints the town, plans new recreational facilities

PRESIDIO — The Presidio Municipal Development District, or PMDD, made progress at last Wednesday’s regular meeting toward a more colorful and active future for Presidio visitors and residents. First on the docket was the Paint Presidio Project, an initiative to beautify local buildings and encourage business owners to get creative. The program was created three years ago with the intention of giving $1,000 grants to local business owners to spruce up the outside of their establishments.

“It’s not just for the beautification aspect — it’s also going to attract people, people that live here or people who are passing through,” Board Member Lizette Rohana explained.

Executive Director Jeran Stephens put it more bluntly: “The sun out here just eats paint.”

For unclear reasons, perhaps due to the pandemic, the group hadn’t received as many applications as they would have liked in the past year. “It’s coming up on the end of 2021 and we haven’t funded a single grant,” Board Member Patrick Manian fretted.

“It’s based on who applies,” Stephens explained. “If we don’t get people applying, we don’t spend the money. And the outside of a building aesthetically probably hasn’t been your priority for the past 18 months [during the pandemic].”

Despite those hurdles, the group hopes the program will be a visual and economic boost for the town. “The application is only one page and your materials have to be local,” she stressed.

One business owner had slipped through the cracks as the organization changed hands halfway through this year: Juany Rodriguez of Ell’s Beauty Salon. The board moved to approve her request for reimbursement of paint and supplies, and hoped to promote and amplify the project in the future.

Next, the PMDD tackled an ongoing conversation about the role of the Presidio Cultural Development Association. Back in August, Presidio City Council rescinded a resolution recognizing the PCDA, essentially cutting the organization’s ties with the city, including a controversial mural and a series of rock planters outside city hall. The PMDD offered to take over the rest of the project and discussed the future of their role in another important PCDA initiative: the Presidio Farmer’s Market.

The Presidio Farmers Market has been around in different forms and run by different groups since 2012. After a long hiatus, it was re-started by the PCDA in 2020, and is hosted along O’Reilly Street in downtown Presidio every Saturday. Elvira Hermosillo has been volunteering to run the market since its rebranding. “The market is all about the vendors, I’m just here to support them,” she emphasized. Her duties involve opening the door to the Slack building — the stone building with the shade structure that serves as the backdrop for the weekly Saturday markets — and helping vendors set up chairs and tables.

The market’s attendance and offerings have fluctuated in the past year. One challenge its boosters face is diversifying the market’s offerings, which typically include food stands that sell barbeque, tortas, gorditas, tacos and other street food items. “I’ve only seen one person selling something that wasn’t a prepared food item once in 90 days,” Stephens said.

PMDD members officially voted not to advertise or financially support the farmer’s market unless specially asked by Hermosillo but tossed around ideas that might help make it a more popular event. Live music, better seating and more shade structures were touted as ways to drive business. “For some of the vendors, that’s their livelihood,” Hermosillo explained. “I want it to be a place where we can go eat and socialize, a weekend activity where you can go hang out.”

To cap off the meeting, the board discussed expanding Presidio’s recreational offerings, a hot topic among locals at a brainstorming workshop hosted at the Oasis Restaurant on November 17. Motorcycle culture is thriving in Presidio — the city’s website touts itself as “motorcycle heaven” — but board members wanted to improve spaces to get outside and play, especially for cyclists, skateboarders, dog lovers and local kids.

Since November’s workshop, the PMDD has launched a survey over social media to gauge the public’s interest in different types of outdoor recreational facilities. Stephens reported that there was overwhelming support for the idea of a town skate park. “A few years ago, some of the high school kids got together and tried to raise money to build a skate park. I don’t really know why that didn’t happen — maybe they just didn’t put enough cash together,” Stephens said. “But I think it was still a great idea. And I think it would still be something that would benefit our existing population and visitors.”

The group also surveyed the public about support for more biking trails and a dog park. The board is also seeking bids for a contractor to build a large shade structure for the playground next to the public pool. It’ll be a high-dollar project, but one that the board feels is “non-negotiable.”

“If we were any place else in the country, it might not be such a big deal,” Stephens said. “I’ve driven by at eight o’clock at night on a July evening, and that’s the first time kids can physically touch the playground because it’s so darn hot. My goal is to have that done by May. I’m not sure yet if that’s possible, but we’re sure going to try to have it done by summer.”

The group hopes that having more attractive outdoor facilities will entice families passing through Presidio as part of a Big Bend vacation, and, long term, encourage folks born and raised in Presidio to have families of their own in town. “I think one of the things that sets us apart is we are very family oriented,” Stephens said. “The majority of the people who live here have been here for generations and they love this place. They want good things for this community and they want their children to be able to come back here and earn a living, a good quality of life. But first y