Plans for a China Spring park long in the making are finally beginning to take shape, with Waco officials anticipating construction could start in about a year.
About 60 people came to offer input and get an update on the park’s progress from the firm designing it, RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture, and city parks officials during a meeting Tuesday at China Spring Intermediate School.
Waco City Council Member Jim Holmes, whose district includes China Spring, said bringing a park to the area has been a dream that has been brewing since he first joined the city council in 2016. With the land secured and the first phase of the park funded, Holmes said he is looking forward to hearing the wishes of the community on the proposed park.
While many residents said they have concerns about the impact to local wildlife, security and parking, many also said they are excited about the prospect of a new park and pleased with the efforts of city officials to hear out their concerns.
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The city’s plans for the first phase include pavilions, playgrounds and walking trails connected to local subdivisions.
In 2022, Waco announced it had spent $3.2 million to buy 85 acres for the park near Waco Regional Airport, along Flat Rock Road and Skeet Eason Road.
Parks and Recreation Director Jonathan Cook said the city has budgeted $3 million from its capital improvement fund to pay for the first phase of construction at the park.
The purpose of Tuesday evening’s meeting was to gather input from China Spring residents on what they want to see incorporated into the park as RVi and city officials continue to shape the vision of the park. Cook said the planning process should be finished by the summer.
Overall, residents expressed interest in amenities such as natural play areas, a splash pad, trails for walking or biking, areas for nature observation, pavilions and shade structures, and sports amenities such as a basketball court or skate park.
Sixth grader Reece Talbert and his brother Chance Talbert, a fifth grader, said they hope to see a skate park added to the park plan because of how far they have to travel to get to the nearest skate park in Waco. During the meeting, they read an article discussing the benefits a skate park would bring to China Spring, such as giving local kids a place to get active.
Even without a skate park, the brothers said they are excited about a park coming to China Spring. Todd Talbert, their father, said he often takes his sons to parks and the family is excited about one coming close to their neighborhood.
China Spring residents DeLinn Payne and Erica Boisvert said the park has been a long-term need in the community and they are excited it is on its way. Boisvert said she is looking forward to the park serving as a free place for all members of the community to come together.
While many in the community are excited about the park, Travis Saur said he is concerned about park security, as his house is directly adjacent to the park site. He said he would be able to see the park from his front doorstep, but if park security is maintained, he will be satisfied.
“Our main concern is people that come to the park to loiter and just are up to no good,” Saur said. “That’s what we don’t want to see. If it’s well-maintained, and there’s none of that, there’s no problem.”
Michael Larsen, a co-founder of the China Spring Neighborhood Association, said bringing a park to China Spring was one of the reasons the neighborhood association was founded. He said he and other members of the association have been very pleased with the city’s efforts in working with residents to bring them a park everyone can enjoy.
“This is a huge celebration for our community,” Larsen said.
RVi project director Alan Mackey said community input is crucial during the design process, as developers want to ensure the park meets the community’s needs.
“We’re at the starting point, and we don’t put pen to paper on any ideas until we go through our analysis and understand what the opportunities and constraints are,” Mackey said. “And then also talking to the stakeholders and talking to the residents, because it’s their park, right? We want what they want.”
Cook said the project has been delayed slightly from previous estimates. He said within the next three to four months, the final vision for the park will be established and presented to the Waco City Council. Construction could start by January and last nine to 12 months, putting an opening for the park in late 2025 or early 2026.
“We hope to be doing a groundbreaking a year from now,” Cook said.
A survey to provide input on the park is available through the city parks website or at surveymonkey.com/r/Z2M5SCR.