Phase 2 plans for Evelyn’s Park presented to Bellaire council
A splash pad, more shade and a play area specifically for small children could be coming to Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire.
The park’s phase 2 plans were presented to the Bellaire city council on Monday, Jan. 29.
Evelyn’s Park Conservancy Park Director Patricia King-Ritter said since the Bellaire destination opened in April 2017, the EPC and the Bellaire parks board have been observing what goes on to better understand how to successfully evolve.
“We’ve learned a lot through our success and failures: what works and what doesn’t work, testing programming and events and most of all, listening to our patrons. Basically, we look at how the community uses and enjoys the park,” King-Ritter said. “All this plays into the part of how the park lives and what we’re seeing and how we can improve it, how we can get better,” she said.
To ensure continuity and an adherence to the park’s goals, SWA, the landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm that designed the original park, has been working on phase 2.
Scott Rubenstein, the phase 2 coordinator, highlighted several of the features of the plan.
Water from a new splash pad would be stored in a below-ground cistern (and perhaps an above-ground one) and used to irrigate the park. This would make the pad’s water usage a “wash,” according to Rubenstein. He said other types of splash pads would need expensive constant filtration to recycle water back through or just empty fresh water into storm drains.
The splash pad area would also have lights for a beautiful look at night and double as a stage area for special events. Rubenstein said it would take the place of an originally planned large lake that would have had higher maintenance costs and upkeep.
A new shade structure would be built on the south side of the park near Bellaire Boulevard with some durable, mobile seating where people could create their own space to enjoy the park from a cooler vantage point. Another shade structure over the art lawn would provide a roof to install additional solar panels so that the park could achieve net zero status and no longer need to purchase electricity from outside its own grid. Rubenstein said currently, a third of the park’s power comes from its existing solar panels.
A new play area with closer to the ground features would give small children a space to have fun and be safe apart from older boys and girls.
The plan also includes covering the play hill with a naturally colored, rubberized material that would allow for play but also protect the surface of the hill.
Providing straighter, less “meandering” pathways for people to traverse the park more quickly would be another focus.
Finally, work slated for the park’s drainage area would better define pathways surrounding it and improve visuals in the area where currently wildflowers grow.
Rubenstein told the council that funding for phase 2 will come through the EPC and would require zero tax dollars.
“We are looking for no public funds for this. This is going to be 100 percent privately funded. We have enough money to get started tomorrow,” he said. “We don’t have it all raised because, you know, there are some items that we want to enhance it with, but we can get started with the base plan of everything I’ve showed you tonight.”
The council seemed to share excitement over the new phase 2 ideas. While Council Member Pat McLaughlan called the plan “excellent, excellent, excellent,” Council Member Michael Fife said she heard only support when she attended a meeting for neighbors bordering the park and the Newcastle trail.
“They’ve just said, ‘It fits.’ And I think that’s the way I would say it: it now belongs to Bellaire, not to the rest of the world,” she said.
The phase 2 plans are scheduled to go before council for approval in March. King-Ritter said if approved, the work would likely begin in 2020 in stages in order to allow people to enjoy the park during the process and be completed in 2021.