PMDD discusses improvements to Daly Park, possibility of riverfront park 

PRESIDIO — Spring was in the air at last week’s Presidio Municipal Development District (PMDD) meeting, where the board’s discussions turned again and again to improving the city’s outdoor recreation spaces. First on the docket was Daly Park, just behind Harper Hardware. 

“How do I put this — it’s a wasteland,” said Executive Director Jeran Stephens. “It’s supposed to be a family-oriented space. It should be better, it should be more accessible.” 

Stephens submitted a grant to the tune of $31,075 to the AARP Foundation. Her proposal included senior citizen-friendly exercise equipment for local elders who live near the park, as well as ADA-compliant benches and grills that will help Presidians with mobility issues picnic and relax in style. She also added a line in the budget for a wheelchair-friendly swing.  

Other upgrades will include replacing the park’s benches and seating with materials other than metal to help keep seating options open in the summer heat. The band shell will also get a fresh coat of paint and some needed repairs, in hopes that the concert space will open up opportunities as an entertainment venue. 

Stephens reported that she’d been in negotiations with the organizers of Viva Big Bend, a music festival that has brought acts from across the state to venues in Big Bend communities every July since 2012. Presidio has always been a notable exception to the lineup because it doesn’t have an appropriate place for the festival crowd to gather. 

“We’re looking at ways to become a part of that program next summer,” Stephens said. “It’ll benefit tourism, it’ll bring in money.”

If PMDD gets the grant, all of the projects must be completed, accounted for financially and documented by December 12. 

“With proper scheduling, that’s totally possible,” said City Councilmember John Razo, who has worked with the city on similar projects in the past. “City parks are very important for tourism, and they’re also important for our community, for our kids.” 

With the time constraint in mind, Stephens lowballed the grant, keeping the focus on projects that could be done cheaply and quickly but still make an impact. “Fixing the grass problem, replacing the existing teeter totter — we can do that on our own timeline,” she said. Much of the equipment she would like to order comes pre-assembled, limiting city employees’ labor to painting and installation.

Awards from the AARP Foundation won’t be announced until May, but Stephens was determined to take on the project regardless of the funding source. “If we get it, hallelujah, we can refurbish Daly Park on somebody else’s dime,” she said. “If not, we’ll just have to think about money in a slightly different way.” 

Next on the docket was the possibility of a new park in Presidio along the river. Board member Patrick Manian had started looking into what resources would be needed to take full advantage of Presidio’s riverfront status. “The one thing tourism-wise that Presidio has that none of the other Big Bend towns have is proximity to the river,” he said. 

Manian had started looking into grants provided through the International Water and Boundary Commission’s (IBWC) Realty and Asset Management Office. The IBWC, which oversees the Presidio levee and many other areas along the local riverfront, could potentially offer the city an easement on their land for recreational use. 

City Councilmember Arian Velázquez-Ornelas was familiar with the program, too, having attended a special meeting between the city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau and the IBWC. “I have contacts from other border towns that have proceeded with this and successfully made parks next to the river,” she said. 

Community members Trisha Runyan and H. Cowan cautioned the board against spinning too many plates at once. “I do feel strongly that it’s essential that we not get too spread out and focus first on [the playground] and Daly Park,” Runyan said. 

Stephens assured everyone that the board was looking to start small. “We don’t want it to be this huge thing that is hard to keep up,” she said. “But I also have a vision of this little green space on the river, with a walking path that’s dog and bicycle and people friendly, and a space where you can picnic and your kids can get their toes wet.” 

Manian respectfully pushed back against criticism that his idea was beyond the scope of Presidio’s short-term capabilities. “I think PMDD needs to be focused on bigger picture things,” he said. “Daley Park is great. But is it gonna bring anyone from outside the community? Presidio needs to do things that get people’s attention.”

He spoke to a common phenomenon in the Big Bend: working in or owning a public-facing business in such a remote place can often mean that community members become de-facto travel agents. “I own a business and people from out of town constantly ask me, ‘What am I going to do in Presidio? What’s something cool I can do in Presidio in the summer?’ Giving them an excuse to stay just another couple hours is the difference between them spending the night here versus just driving through.” 

Stephens reminded everyone that visitation at both of the Big Bend parks has been growing exponentially over the past few years, and expanding Presidio’s recreational opportunities could help the city take advantage over some of that overflow. “They’re getting millions of visitors rather than the hundreds of thousands that are typical, and it’s not slowing down,” she said.

The potential riverfront park is a longer-term vision for the board, and would require the cooperation of the city, the IBWC, Border Patrol and local private landowners. Still, the idea generated considerable enthusiasm from the public at the packed meeting. 

Victor Alvarez, whose children join him in Presidio during the summers, welcomed the idea. “It would make a huge difference,” he said. “It’d be a good place for families to get together, to take the kids to and just hang out.” 

Community member and photographer Pedro Infante agreed. “I think it’d be a hell of a thing, to start a river park,” he said.