PORTLAND, Texas — Residents of Portland are looking forward to some improvements to a popular shoreline park. It’s been in the works for a few months, and on Wednesday, they got a glimpse at a first look for a possible redesign of Violet Andrews Park.
While the park is located on the southeast coast of the city, its coastline is ideal for those taking part in water sports, according to the city and water sports enthusiasts.
"The wind's consistent, the sand in the bottom, the area to go ahead and set up and launch is just absolutely fantastic. It's just very hard to beat. On top of that, the scenery is just phenomenal," Portland resident Juan Flores said.
He's been doing wind sports for several years.
Sedny Attia, who moved to Portland from California a year ago, is at the park, on the water several times a week.
“We see people from around the world come here to enjoy, to learn, to take lessons,” he said.
In March, the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program awarded a $40,000 grant to Portland to conduct a study on the park. The city also chipped in $10,000. It looked at the planning and engineering to improve recreational access to the water.
Currently, for kiteboarders, there's only one good way to get to the water and it's surrounded by jagged rocks on the east side of the park.
“There are some spots right here where you see some rocks and some hard entry points," Attia said. "So, we have to watch out for the people beginning in the sport a little bit more.”
During a city council workshop on Wednesday, the engineering firm Anchor QEA LLC. presented three designs. The input for the designs came from a public input meeting where area residents and the wind sport community were invited in.
The first featured many recreational upgrades. It calls for several access points to the water, one on the east side for water sports and a few others on the other side of the park. It features two new bathrooms on both sides, an upgraded playground, more walking trails, and viewpoints of the water.
Option two catered more to the restoration of the park. It had a slightly smaller green space for a wind sport setup area and a smaller access point to the water. It had no other access to the water for the public on the other half of the park. It did feature a new pathway that could be used for environmental education.
The third design is a compromise to both.
“Then the big move for the kiteboarders in the eastern side of the park is really maximizing this lawn space and providing a really large laydown area so they can host festivals,” Ana Spooner of Anchor QEA said.
The design shows the eastern part of the park for the kiteboarders. The park is separated by vegetation. The other half accommodates the public with walking trails, a playground, a bathroom, and some water access points, not as many as the first design. Debris along the water would be cleared out and used to make a preservative wall of sorts along the beach.
It still includes a smaller pathway to use for environmental education.
“Clearing out making this accessible, I think will attract more tourists, more people coming in to enjoy the sport,” Attia said.
"This place has become a destination worldwide for water sports,” Flores said.
The city has also purchased a small plot of land for additional parking on the west side of the park. City Councilman Bill Wilson expressed concern for few public beach access points and no updated parking to the east side in design three.
"It feels like we're only creating water access for kiteboarders... We don't want to ignore access to the beach for those kids," he said.
Next in the process, a second public input meeting will be held in July. City council will receive an updated presentation in mid-August.