Arboretum, dog park among ideas to improve Tyler

(Tyler Morning Telegraph) - Better access and more recreation areas at Lake Bellwood, an arboretum, a dog park and other ideas to improve Tyler's parks and open spaces were discussed Wednesday at the Tyler 1st Steering Committee meeting.

The group of about 70 gathered at the Rose Garden Center for the latest in a series of meetings designed to address the Tyler 1st Comprehensive Plan. The plan, formerly known as Tyler 21, was launched in 2007 and addresses such issues as downtown revitalization, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation and housing and neighborhoods.

The comprehensive plan is reviewed every five years and completely updated every 20 years. The Steering Committee had a kickoff meeting in January and is working on taking the city's citizen survey results before the city council in early 2014.

About 96 percent of Tyler residents who completed a survey either online, by mail or by phone said parks, recreation and open space are important to them, City Planner Heather Nick said to the committee. About 427 surveys were completed.

Parks and Recreation Director Stephanie Rollings told the committee the three items most important to residents who attended a parks and recreation open house on April 16 were having a dog park, more cycling facilities and improvements to Lake Bellwood, which served as the city's primary water supply source up until the mid 1960s.

Attendees broke into groups to discuss ideas, which included "wow factors" to make Tyler a tourism destination regarding its parks and natural resources.

One of the "wow factors" included more development of Lake Bellwood, which is underutilized, steering committee members said.

"Lake Bellwood could be our version of White Rock Lake (in Dallas)," District 2 City Councilman Darryl Bowdre said. Committee members also suggested a marina.

That lake offers fishing piers, picnic areas, pavilions available for rental and a special bird watching area, as well as miles of hiking and biking trails, according to its website.

"Most people who come here come for the woods and the water," Bowdre said, adding that about 90 percent of the city's visitors come from Dallas.

The city dwellers don't care about seeing more buildings and pavement because they see enough of that where they live, Bowdre said.

Mike Patterson, another committee member, said he recently visited Minnesota and saw a great number of people surrounding the lakes but not necessarily on the lakes.

"There needs to be more development around the lakes," he said.

Other suggestions given were the need for an arboretum, the development of more "pocket parks," or smaller parks similar to the 1-acre Children's Park on Broadway, the need for expansion of the Glass Recreation Center, and an indoor swimming pool where swim meets and competitions could be hosted.

Funding possibilities for such projects could come from partnerships between a school district and the city and public and private partnerships involving the city and corporations, committee members said.

The goals of the Mayor's Tree Initiative have been met and exceeded, Ms. Rollings said to cheers from committee members. There have been 5,370 trees planted since the initiative launched three years ago. The original goal of the initiative was to plant 5,000 trees in five years.

There will be another Tyler 1st Steering Committee meeting on May 29 to discuss historic preservation goals at the Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive.


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