Presidio County officials voice support for leasing Vizcaino Park to Marfa Parks Board

MARFA — Presidio County officials showed support for leasing county-owned Vizcaino Park to the City of Marfa Parks and Recreation Board after public discussion in a commissioners court meeting on Wednesday.

County Commissioner Brenda Bentley, whose jurisdiction includes the park, said the parks board approached her about the idea and she backed it for various reasons.

“They’re interested in leasing Vizcaino Park and maintaining it and bringing it back to life, which I think is a fantastic idea,” said Bentley. “It needs to be what it was always meant to be, and we just don’t have the money to do that.”

Both County Commissioner David Beebe and County Judge Joe Portillo agreed that due to budget constraints they were not in a position to improve the park’s facilities.

Marfa Parks and Recreation Board President Trey Gerfers said they were approached by several citizens about taking over Vizcaino, and were in a favorable financial position to do so, with a $200,000 plus annual budget, which comes from a portion of the city’s sales tax, and $400,000 in the bank they could utilize to leverage for grants and more.

As it stands, said Gerfers, there were more sports teams — whether it be youth or adult recreational leagues — than Coffield Park could accommodate, and Vizcaino could act as an overflow park for soccer and other sporting activities.

Cody Bjornson, Marfa resident and member of the local sandlot baseball team, Los Yonke Gallos de Marfa, which practices and hosts tournaments at Vizcaino, said he supported the initiative, and the park’s facilities, particularly the bathrooms, were in need of serious upgrades.

“We bring a lot of folks from out of town and it’s sometimes embarrassing having folks use our derelict bathrooms,” said Bjornson at the meeting. “We need to provide those facilities to people.”

Deirdre Hisler, an Antelope Hills resident with a background in state parks, said she too was supportive of the lease agreement idea, but would like to see the City of Marfa’s requirements for Parks and Recreation board members expanded to include those outside of city limits.

County Clerk Florcita Zubia, who is now serving on the parks board, said they have a motivated group that is fired up about the prospect of making Vizcaino more accessible for local families.

“Vizcaino Park has so much potential,” said Zubia. “There’s so many things that can be done up there. It’s being used more and more every year.”

Gerfers assured Bentley no name change would occur under the parks board’s stewardship.

Beebe said he would like to see a 15-year lease agreement, as well as specifics on who will be responsible for maintaining the park’s existing power and water systems. He said considering the county’s dwindling budget, it will probably have to cut even more services down the road, but at least this transition could be a positive one.

“I’m pleased that there isn’t vocal opposition to this idea,” said Beebe. “Because the truth is people, we’re gonna have to look at this for all of our nonrequired services that the county provides.”

Portillo was supportive of the idea and said he was open to considering a longer lease than 15 years. All agreed discussions would continue, and next steps are to hold a public hearing and draft up a lease to begin negotiations. No discussion was had regarding the ongoing matter of El Cosmio’s expansion in the area and potential road addition through Vizcaino Park.

Disclaimer: Cody Bjornson is Mary Cantrell’s partner.