Hayden: Let’s Make Parks a Focus

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Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden

One of the things that attracted many of us to Flower Mound was the openness, the parks, and our town being a respite from a busy day.  I know many of you will say, well Tom under your watch things changed a quite a bit and perhaps that is correct (several thousand jobs, lots of restaurants).  However, several years ago and still to a certain extent today the town’s commercial tax base is misaligned with our residential tax base.  There is a need to continue to diversify our tax rolls with additional commercial opportunities.

However, our Town also needs balance.  And part of that balance is a Park System that gives our residents numerous recreational opportunities.  I’ve heard some say the primary users of our parks are families with children.  Certainly, that is a large portion but another heavy user will be those with small yards or someone living in an apartment who is looking for a tennis court, a trail to ride their bike or a place to walk their dog.  To be honest most everyone, young and old, big yard or no yard, is looking for recreational opportunities.  A quality Park System is one of the major building blocks that completes a community.

What has brought this into focus and the need we have to make parks a priority was the recent search to build a Tennis Center.  Shouldn’t be a problem, right?  There is vacant land everywhere.  Turns out it has been a real challenge.  A Tennis Center might require 15 acres more or less and it has honestly been a struggle to identify a site.  I’m aware of at least a dozen potential locations the town has investigated, and with all these properties there has been a hurdle from the cost of the land, to access or it just not being available (while early, I think we have identified a very good possibility).  This search has opened my eyes that the ability to add additional park land is quickly becoming a significant challenge.

In Flower Mound’s Park Master Plan, it lists just under 1,000 acres of park land throughout the Town, including 250 acres at Twin Coves Park that was recently opened.  The Park Plan also calls for us to add just under 200 additional acres for parks by 2021 to keep pace.  But if we were to project that forward a decade or two, as the Town gets closer to build out, the number would likely be somewhere between 500 to 1000 additional acres of land.  If one was to attach a price of $100,000 per acre, which is under the current market, that cost would equate to $50 to $100 million and that is just for land acquisition.  Add onto that the cost of developing the parks, plus maintenance, it becomes a significant number.

So, what is the call to action?  Acquiring land.  Much like Theodore Roosevelt when he established the National Park System and land was still available in the West, a similar model should be followed in Flower Mound.  While we still can, inventorying park land should be a priority.  Some land can be purchased with Park Dedication fees, some may come from donations.  But we need to put an emphasis on acquiring available land for our Park System.

So Why Would Anyone Want to Serve on Council?

In 2013, I remember Peter Stewart and Jimmy Archie (owners of Lakeside DFW) invited me to travel with them to Austin to meet with the owners of a startup theater company called the Moviehouse & Eatery.  My job was to convince them that the 30 screens at Grapevine Mills and the theater located in The Shops at Highland Village didn’t really matter, there was no doubt Flower Mound could support a Moviehouse in Lakeside with big comfy chairs.  A day or two later a deal was struck and it was announced the Moviehouse was coming to Flower Mound.

The other night, my son Daniel and I went to see Star Wars at the Moviehouse.  As food was being served, people were playing with their chairs, and others were chatting in the lobby there was a moment, a brief moment, but a moment when I thought, you know I actually had a little bit to do with the things going on around us.

If you serve in an elected capacity, from a State Rep to a Municipal Council, people will ask, why would you want to go through the scrutiny, the heartburn and late hours?  What do you get out of it?  The answer is always the same, for that moment you can say to yourself, “you know I was a part of something good.”  In 2012, I was very lucky to serve on a Council with Steve Dixon, Bryan Webb, Kendra Stephenson, Jean Levenick and Mark Wise.  We were all rowing in sync, supporting each other and accomplishing things together.  Everyone had an equal role and together we did things.  It was a rewarding time for everyone.  Our Town Elections are coming up and if you have a desire to participate, this is the time, and I would encourage you to visit the Town Secretary’s office.

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