November 29, 2023 608 PM
MARFA — The Marfa Parks and Recreation Board will be under new leadership in 2024 as current President Trey Gerfers passes the baton to Board Member Michael Camacho. The group, an advisory board charged with maintaining and beautifying city parks, is striving to complete major improvements to Coffield Park and more.
Gerfers, who has served on the board for eight years and as president for five, said he chose to resign because his role as general manager of the county groundwater district is ramping up and he is confident that there is a strong Parks Board in place.
“I wish all of them the best with all of the plans that we started and anything else that they’re going to embark on because I know they have what it takes to get these things done,” said Gerfers.
Joe Cashiola, who has served on the board for three years, will step into the role of vice president to assist Camacho. Other members include Florcita Zubia, Natalie Axton, Katie Inglis and city council members Mark Cash and Mark Morrison.
Among the board’s chief focus in the new year will be long-awaited improvements to Coffield Park, including the construction of new bathrooms and an open-air kitchen on either side of the existing gazebo, installation of a splash pad — an area for water play with no standing water — and more. The road running through the park has recently been closed and will be transformed into additional greenspace.
Camacho, who has been on the Parks Board for a year, said he got involved because he and his family are active users of the parks and he wanted to advocate for the installation of the splash pad for Coffield. As the father of two kids, he said they visit splash pads frequently while traveling, and they are an accessible, fun alternative to pools.
“It’s open from sunrise to sunset. You just press a little button and it’s on. You don’t need lifeguards,” said Camacho.
“Splash pads are a quick way to get cool, and I am of the opinion that people of color don’t have as much access to water as other people do,” he added. “I think it’s really important to have these available to communities that need it.”
Pending the approval of city council members, the splash pad will be installed in time for this coming summer, said Camacho. It will cost $200,000 and be around 800 square feet, he said. Camacho plans to seek grants and private donations to help offset the cost.
The splash pad’s precise location within the park has yet to be determined, but a plan is in place to reclaim the water used via an underground storage tank which will help irrigate the trees and park landscape, said Camacho.
Now that the road running through the park has been removed, the Parks Board plans to plant trees and native grasses to fill in the space. In addition to creating more valuable greenspace, Camacho said the road closure will allow for increased park safety.
“It’s quite amazing to just let your kids run that direction and still be in the park and not have to worry about [them] being run over from getting from one side of the park to the other side of the park,” said Camacho.
Plans to upgrade the existing wire barriers to stronger, more uniform barricades to further secure the park are also being explored, he said. Cashiola said the large MAC Building parking lot will act as the park’s primary parking, and additional handicap spots, signage and walkways to connect the two areas will be established.
The bathroom and kitchen additions to the park’s stone gazebo, which were originally set to be completed by this summer, are now planned to be completed in spring of 2024, said Camacho.
Designs were chosen in March 2022 but construction has been delayed due to difficulties securing a contractor, said Gerfers, who initially received no bids on the project. Gerfers recently recruited Board Member Morrison, who works in construction, to act as the general contractor for the project and said pouring of concrete slabs and metal roof work should begin soon.
An initiative to transfer ownership of Vizcaino Park from Presidio County to the Marfa Parks and Recreation Board is also ongoing. While county officials have voiced support for the initiative, citing budget constraints, city officials were less eager to take on an additional park, citing legality, among other concerns.
Gerfers said the Parks Board has recently learned that such a transfer is legal, and the group is still in conversation with the city on the matter.
According to local government code, a political subdivision may donate land to another political subdivision under the conditions that the donation benefits the public interest, the donated land maintains the same purpose, and the donation may be reversed if the acquiring entity ceases to use the land or is no longer using it for public purposes.
Both Gerfers and Camacho said the Parks Board is interested in taking over and improving Vizcaino Park, informally referred to as “Vizky.” Gerfers said the potential land transfer will likely be a long process and citizens will need to put pressure on city officials if they want it to move forward.
“Those who are interested in Vizky becoming a city park and being improved should continue to ask the mayor, the city council and the city manager, ‘So what’s going on with Vizky?’ ‘How come you won’t take Vizky?’” said Gerfers.
In the meantime, the Parks Board is looking to enhance facilities already under its purview, including Coffield as well as Sunset Park, the lesser-known park located behind the post office. Camacho and Cashiola said they were excited to see projects through in the new year and urged public participation.
“We’ve got some pretty ambitious plans for the parks,” said Cashiola. “We encourage any members from the community to come to the meetings that we have and begin to contribute to some of the ideas that are being put forth towards the design of these structures.”
Reflecting on his tenure, Gerfers said active involvement from the community and board members is the key ingredient in making local parks a success.
“We have all of these great parks, all of them need a lot of love, and we have money,” said Gerfers. “It’s really just a matter of: Do you have energy? Do you have ideas? Are you willing to show up? You can get a lot done. You can have a big impact.”
The Marfa Parks and Recreation Board meets the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Casner Room at City Hall. The public is invited to attend.