Posts by Sarah Bennett
The much-debated issue of what to charge instructors for using University Park facilities might have been finalized at last night’s City Council meeting. Though much progress has been made as far as compromises, many residents still have a few bones to pick. The council decided to table the item once more, and list it as a discussion topic at the next meeting in two weeks.
“We’re trying to balance the interest of the University Park people with the people that are commercially making a living on the court, and we’ve got to reach that balance,” Councilman Bob Begert said.
Mayor Dick Davis mentioned that a second special meeting may be held in order to give staff appropriate direction on the issues. Look for more information in Friday’s Park Cities People.
The date is set and the pond will be stocked; mark your calendars for June 8 for the annual University Park Children’s Fishing Derby. The fun runs from 9 a.m. to noon at Caruth Park.
The name of the game is catch and release, because we’re all animal lovers here. Don’t forget to bring your own pole and bait. If you catch the smallest or the largest fish, you’ll get a prize. If your luck gets you medium-sized fish, don’t be sad. There’s still door prizes to be won.
You can register at the event, or you can register ahead of time with the Parks Department at 214-987-5488. Happy fishing!
The top 8-to-10 performances will be chosen to speak at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff on June 20. Judges will determine who moves on to present at TEDxSMU on Oct. 19. Finalists for the Kessler Theater round will be announced June 6.
If you just want to check out the talent and not compete yourself, you can come to the Kessler to watch the performances at 6 p.m. on June 20. Auditions start at 7 p.m., and tickets are $12 here.
The council chambers at University Park City Hall were unusually full for Tuesday’s meeting. Most of the new faces were tennis moms with kids in tow or longtime instructors who wanted to weigh in on proposed changes to park fees.
In their work session just prior to the meeting, City Council members got the full lowdown on the proposal, so they knew to anticipate many varying opinions.
“I don’t think our goal is to ever inconvenience the resident,” said parks director Gerry Bradley.
The proposal would eliminate the $80 annual fee for families, maintain the $40 individual fee for individuals, and raise the annual fee for seniors and youths from $7.50 to $10. But the most controversial issue is the new $1,000 annual free for tennis instructors and personal trainers.
“I completely understand the predicament you guys are in,” Marquette Street resident Jenny Wood said. “It’s our parks that have fostered the sense of community and hold our values together. [Instructors are] instilling values in our kids, too.”
Many residents have complained about being unable to secure courts because tennis instructors monopolize the reservations, according to Bradley. There’s also an issue with damage done to the parks by equipment used during trainers’ boot camps. So the $1,000 fee was hatched as a resolution, based on calculating the average instructor’s salary.
“A thousand-dollar fee seems a little excessive to me,” said Amherst Avenue resident Matt Drazner.
The fee was calculated based on three hours of teaching a day, five days a week. But many residents said their instructors teach smaller or fewer classes, and therefore don’t generate as much revenue.
The city ordinance regarding tennis court reservations was recently posted on University Park’s website. It says police may check to make sure players have permits and that reservation times are observed. A number of residents said having the ordinance on the website has improved reservation issues.
“What precipitated our proposal were complaints from citizens who could not use our tennis courts and open areas because they had observed people using our parks for commercial ventures,” Parks Board member Bill Skelton said.
Ultimately, the issue just wasn’t ready for a vote Tuesday. A revised ordinance still needs to be drafted.
“It’s not that I want to prohibit people from using our parks,” Councilwoman Dawn Moore said. “I want our parks available to our residents.”
But Stanford Avenue resident Nicole Richter, whose online “Keep Our Parks Awesome” petition has garnered 551 signatures, still isn’t sure.
“Based on what I saw, it seemed like there was a pretty clear public opinion on the matter,” Richter said after Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a big difference between people actually using the parks, and people who are disturbing the parks.”
Before we know it, school will be out and temperatures will be sweltering. It almost sounds good after this extended Texas winter. Both the University Park and Highland Park pools will open for Memorial Day weekend on May 25, but be sure to check out the specifics:
In Highland Park, the Town Pool (in Davis Park) will not be open on the weekdays until school is out. Basically, you’re good for a weekend dip around Memorial Day, but for those of you who are more religious swimmers, weekday operations start June 1. The regular hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The pool is usually closed for maintenance on Mondays, excepting Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In University Park, the Holmes Aquatic Center will open fully on May 25 also open for Memorial Day weekend, and then fully on June 1. If you need a first-time pool pass ($60), don’t go to City Hall. Passes are sold at Peek Service Center, and don’t forget your proof of residency. Driver license or utility bill will do. If you’re a veteran of pool passes, renew online ($50) or mail in your form to the Parks Department. If you purchase after May 18, those prices will go up $10. Seniors (60 and up) are $40 no matter when you buy; replacement cards are $10 at any time.
See you at the pool!
Update: Both pools will be open for Memorial Day weekend, with regular operations beginning June 1 (at both pools).
If your kiddos (or you) need to get the basics down for summer, the American Red Cross will hold classes at Holmes Aquatic Center starting June 10. The classes are held in two-week intervals, and run Monday through Friday until mid-August. Each session starts at 9 a.m. and is only 45 minutes long.
Classes must have between three and six students. Sessions may be canceled due to inclement weather or pool maintenance, and if two or more sessions are canceled, a make-up class will be held on a Saturday. Each class consists of eight sessions. If you need more information or want to go ahead and book, call the University Park Parks Department at 214-987-5488.
More than 500 people have signed a petition opposing changes to the fees associated with University Park’s tennis courts and parks.
On April 10, the Parks Board recommended charging a new $1,000 annual fee to tennis instructors and personal trainers who conduct clinics and boot camps in the city’s parks. In addition, instructors would have to pay fees for half-day ($100), full-day ($200), and weeklong ($800) clinics. They would also be required to submit a roster one week prior to the clinic, proving that 51 percent of the participants live in University Park.
“The public wasn’t aware that the Parks Board had voted on this,” said Nicole Richter, who started the online “Keep Our Parks Awesome” petition that had 520 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. “It doesn’t seem like it’s the right answer.”
Richter’s petition says the proposal would increase residents’ annual permit fees for tennis courts by 100 percent. But a document provided by city spokesman Steve Mace shows that there would be no change in the individual permit fee of $40. The fees for senior and youth permits would increase from $7.50 to $10. The document does not mention the existing family fee of $80.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Tuesday.
“Nothing is in stone yet, certainly,” Mace said. “Should the public have opinions, they are welcome to attend the May 7 meeting.”
Richter, who has been using the courts with her children for a year, feels that the fees are too high, and will drive instructors out of the Park Cities. The residents, then, would travel to Dallas parks for lessons and boot camps.
“A couple of residents have complained that it’s hard to get a court with the reservation system, but other things can be done,” Richter said.
But from the city’s standpoint, the adaptations were drafted with residents in mind.
“It’s not designed to discontinue use by these individuals, but regulate their impact on others,” Mace said. “It’s not uncommon for a tennis instructor to lock up a number of the courts, making it difficult for residents to drop by and have a game.”
He predicts that the issue will be talked about in a work session just prior to the 5 o’clock council meeting, and then presented as a discussion item before the council.
“That’s the value of this, is that staff wants input from the council,” Mace said. “There’s ample time for public comment.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened to the public today, welcoming crowds of visitors and DISD schoolchildren. The Library has been live-tweeting photos and updates all morning. If you’re looking to plan a visit, get up-to-date information here.
On Friday, Highland Park continued its tradition of recognizing Arbor Day by planting six redbud trees in Prather Park and Davis Park. Here, Mayor Joel Williams (left) and parks foreman Mike Rangel plant a forest pansy redbud in Davis Park.
Arbor Day, which has been recognized in Texas since 1890, traditionally comes on the last Friday in April. Each year, the parks department recognizes this by planting at least one tree.
I just learned via WFAA that former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will participate in the Highland Park Centennial Literary Festival. The Texas Book Festival, created by former First Lady Laura Bush and held each October in Austin, is sponsoring the events on May 11. That’s when you can catch the dynamo discussing her new book, Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas. It’s perfect because the day’s theme is “100 Years of Texas Writing.” Is your mouth salivating with excitement yet? Mine is.
In the literary world, this isn’t Hutchison’s first rodeo. Her books American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country and Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers were published in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Are you catching a theme? She’s kind of big on patriotism and female power. Rock on.
The event takes place at Highland Park United Methodist Church and is hosted by the Texas Book Festival, Friends of Highland Park Library, Friends of SMU Libraries, and Texas Monthly.