STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Robert Moss smiled as he thought back to one of his favorite days as the parks and recreation director for the city of Marble Falls, the day Falls Creek Park and Skatepark had its official grand opening Oct. 16, 2010.
Forget that Moss was fulfilling one of two charges he was given when former City Manager George Russell offered him the director position: to build a skatepark and another park on Second Street. He recalled the day as he discussed the parks department, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The reason Moss remembers that day so vividly is because of the young skaters, their parents, and a resident who was sitting in a wheelchair with a giant smile on his face. That resident was Tony Hogue, one of Marble Falls’ former mayors and the skate park’s pioneer.
Hogue watched as a young videographer shot scene after scene of every trick, turn, and ramp as the cameraman made a trail from one end of the skatepark to the other and captured it on video.
“That day was so cool,” Moss said as he chuckled. “Tony suffered from emphysema and was on oxygen. He was usually very quiet, but on that day, that man came to life. On the ride home, he wouldn’t shut up.”
As part of July being National Park and Recreation Month and the city’s parks and recreation department celebrating 10 years, Moss looked back on the work done over the past decade.
The skatepark being at the top of his list might surprise people, but it serves as a symbol of what can happen when people and city administrators work together.
Russell called the construction of the skatepark “a miracle.” It was “the most amazing thing. It got done by the involvement of the people who actually were going to use the park.”
The Marble Falls Skatepark Association was formed to raise money to build a skatepark. The association brought in $50,000, and city officials used that money plus land at Yett and Main streets to get a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the remaining $55,000. The whole project was funded with donations and grants.
Moss said there’s rarely a time someone isn’t enjoying the skatepark, no matter the day. As the director of the department, that’s what brings him joy: seeing residents having a good time in a fun environment that was made just for them.
“The skater community has really taken ownership of that facility,” Moss said. “We’ve had a little graffiti, but we’ve taken it off. We have people to this day who come here just to look at this skatepark to see how it’s done.”
Ten years earlier, the city staff was responsible for 88 acres, and parks maintenance was under the direction of the public works department.
What changed in the past decade? The parks staff added more community sports facilities, enclosed Lakeside Pavilion, renovated a former house into Westside Park Community Hall, built the skatepark, and created Westside Park, a nine-hole disc golf course at that park, and a hike-and-bike trail that links Johnson Park to Westside Park.
Ten years ago, Russell emphasized the need for a dedicated parks and recreation department, noting the city was growing and residents wanted facilities that could hold grand affairs such as weddings, galas, retreats, and other formal events.
They also wanted outdoor pavilions, grills, and other amenities at Johnson Park maintained and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In short, Russell said, it was simply time.
“We were needing a parks director,” he said. “We have a city on the water and all kinds of events. The number of events we had were growing. The trail system was something people had wanted for ions.”
The other charge Moss accepted when he came to Marble Falls as its only parks and recreation director is that Westside Park, located on Second Street and Avenue Q, would be built. It opened in May 2009 and includes a nine-hole disc golf course, a basketball court, Westside Park Community Hall, a dog park, and a playground.
In the past decade, the parks department has secured more than $400,000 in grants and donations for projects.
“For a city this size, it’s very good,” Moss said. “You can’t ask for better.”
The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. has given more than $257,000 for miscellaneous park improvements, the hike-and-bike trail, and other park-related needs.
More than $200,000 has come from the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, and the City Council approved the recommendation from the Capital Improvement Project committee to give the parks department $100,000 for improvements in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
The department has created business partnerships for specific events that utilize the parks such as the Spring Break activities that draw hundreds of young residents to disc golf clinics, dance lessons, obstacle courses, kickball games, and a free lunch.
Then, there are projects that simply need champions such as Westside’s dog park, Ruff Park, which was led by Megan Klaeger. Before Klaeger was a council member, she was a resident who saw a need for a dog park and went to Moss to outline her idea and how she would raise money for it. All she needed from the parks commission and the City Council was a site.
“People make comments that it’s hard to get something done working with a city,” Moss said. “I use that as an example. Cities can’t be everything to everyone, but we can help. (Klaeger) came with a plan and simply needed to get from the city what she didn’t have.”
Another objective was led by former parks commissioner Steve Manley. Manley led the effort to get Johnson Park, which was established in 1887 and is arguably the most popular of the city’s parks, recognized as a Lone Star Legacy park by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society.
The award goes to parks that are community staples and part of the rich history of a city. The criteria is so comprehensive that city officials had to apply for the distinction three times before finally receiving the award in 2016. When the honor finally came, city officials hosted a party and asked several guest speakers to talk about what the park has meant to their groups.
Moss said that day ranks as one of his favorites, too.
“We did have an appreciation for that program, the significance of this to the community as a far as a city park or community park,” Moss said. “That’s what’s relevant – what it means to the community, the area that claims that park as theirs. Our parks are revered and loved by the community. When people come to Marble Falls, the first comment out of their mouth is ‘It’s so beautiful there.’ If they’ve been here and spent the day, they’ve come to that park because it’s drawn so many.”
Russell said Moss has done the job he was hired to do, though he added he’s unsure of the new objectives from the current administration.
“Robert’s main goal was to build a parks program,” he said. “Before, we were in maintenance mode. You look at all the parks we have now instead of just focusing on one. You have a lot of new venues, the trails, the enclosed Lakeside Pavilion, the grants and awards have been done by him doing that. I don’t know about exceeded expectations. He met expectations and, in some areas, exceeded it.”