Tanya Margerm presents a draft Steelhead Park plan to Houston council.

Tanya Margerm presents a draft Steelhead Park plan to Houston council.

District makes Steelhead Park plan to enable funding

The District of Houston is engaging park users about a park plan, and they are seeking leadership among users to carry the plan forward.

Council is developing a plan for Steelhead Park to seek funding for future improvements.

Tanya Margerm, District consultant and landscape architect, was hired last November to work with the park user groups and coordinate a plan to address their needs and wants.

The goal is to get a plan in place so that council can take advantage of funding opportunities as they arise, said John Guenther, Director of Engineering.

The primary concerns of groups at Steelhead Park are (1) access to parking for their uses, (2) access to washrooms, and (3) organization for events to avoid disturbing others, Margerm said.

Margerm presented a draft of the plan to council last Tuesday.

One aspect involves the Farmers Market, which is outgrowing it’s space and jams up parking for tourist buses and other vehicles, Margerm said.

They were quite interested in moving to the area by the solar panels and beside the Chamber of Commerce. It would allow them to be part of that green energy movement and it gives them three times the space, she said.

It would also increase parking access and be easy to access from the mall, she added.

The Historical Society, which runs the museum section west of the park, is looking at expanding to fill the gravel space beside the museum church.

One of the most important issues at Steelhead is parking, Margerm said.

The lot needs lines and organization so that people don’t park right in the middle and muddle the whole lot, she said.

The plan includes lines along the side so buses and bigger vehicles can park behind the green space across from A&W. It does not include parking for tractor trailers at this point, but Margerm said council could allow them to park in those spots on the side if they chose to.

As for the park itself, most of it will stay the same, Margerm said, adding that they are looking at a few changes behind Elements Restaurant, including a lawn in front of the cenotaph.

“It’s really inexpensive but it’s a lot more pleasant to stand in something like that beside the cenotaph [rather then a gravel lot] during the events,” she said.

They also want to loop the path in a circuit around the lawn and add at least two crosswalks across Highway 16, one at Copeland Avenue and one across from the downtown near Remax.

“It would give you much better access to the downtown corridor and the merchants that are there,” she said, adding that it would also slow traffic coming through town.

Margerm said they’re also looking at putting a water park behind Elements.

“It sounds a little bit far fetched when you first hear it, but a water park is really just an ash-vault parking lot that’s graded,” Margerm said.

“It’s not an expensive feature but it is a tremendous draw for all families coming through this corridor… Not to mention that the community itself would have a great opportunity for an outdoor experience.

“It’s just suggested at this time, this is a draft concept, but a water park in the future might be a really great experience,” she said.

Finally several groups are looking at developing the train station.

“It’s a huge opportunity for a centre-piece to the whole park,” Margerm said.

“The Multicultural Society and Historical Society are both interested in using that as a gathering space and vending space.

It would have a platform for things like “Light Up” and “Terry Fox Run” or small concerts or gatherings, and they would create a small space for pedestrians to gather.

Mayor Bill Holmberg said his concern with the plan is money and timing.

“We’re doing all this budget tightening, and wondering where we’re going to get money to look after the sewer and water projects.

“My concern is where is money going to come for this and how much money is it going to cost?

Guenther said the money will come in pieces.

“The plan helps you get grant funding. If you have a plan in place, the context is there [to apply for grants],” he said.

Many of the needs require little expenditure, he added.

“So what’s the vision? Where do we go from here?” Holmberg asked.

Guenther said they are looking to get leadership from one of the non-profit groups, who can start working on some of the issues with CN regarding the train station and who can look for grants and funding opportunities.

William Wallace, Director of Finance, said he sees potential for council to use the train station commercially and draw business into that space.

“This is a great start, but somehow the District or others will need to actively push it so its not just a non profit exercise.

“To me this calls for aggressive business planning and aggressive marketing.

“You want to make money, you want something like a high-end restaurant there, that might not compete in the existing marketplace but could be successful in that location and could afford to carry a lot of the cost of the very nice building,” Wallace said.

Wallace added that a commercial plan like that, involving a self-sustaining business for the train station, would increase chances of success in getting funding.

The District budgeted $7,000 for the Steelhead Park plan, and by the end, they will have digital plans to use to pull in funding, Guenther said.

Having a plan helped Granisle get park funding, said Margerm who developed the park plan for Granisle last year.

“Having a plan enables you to get funding,” she said.