Residents speak out on future of Bergfeld Park

Published on Thursday, 5 September 2013 21:23 - Written by By Faith Harper fharper@tylerpaper.com

About 30 people gathered in Bergfeld Park Thursday evening to listen and propose suggestions on the revitalization on one of the city’s oldest parks.

Mark Spencer, of MHS planning and design, a Tyler architectural firm, outlined five key areas of proposed improvements to the park, including the amphitheater, tennis courts, playground equipment and a potential splash park. Spencer said the objective was not to change the park drastically, but offer subtle improvements to the popular park, nestled in the heart of the Azalea District.

“The most important part about Bergfeld is the general feel,” he said. “From everything we have heard at this point, the main attraction to Bergfeld is the lawns and the trees.”

The amphitheater was first constructed during the Works Progress Administration, and Spencer said the firm had no intention of removing the period rock that lines the 1,000 seat structure.

Discussions centered on how best to use the area, soften the concrete stage that was built in the 1980s, and provide shade.

One option was leaving about 225 seats, and turning the rest of the concrete into a grassy area where other activities could go on.

“It would give us another lawn area for general organized play, sunbathing, whatever it may be and soften that whole area by keeping the parameter with stone walls.”

The idea was to make the area more family-friendly with stabilized seating for some and a grassy area for kids to be able to play and families to picnic. Suggestions included having a grassy hill or tiered layers for ground viewing of amphitheater events.

Community members expressed mixed feeling with doing away with the historic but uncomfortable seats. Some said removing the concrete would cut down on heat, and add comfort, while others said requiring families to bring lawn chairs would add to an already congested traffic problem.

Spencer said another proposition for cutting down on the heat included using the existing light structure to pull fabric roofs over the concrete theater, with the canvases also helping with sound projection.

For the tennis courts, Spencer suggested either fixing them or turning them into a basketball or multi-use courts, but most of the group was in favor of updating the existing courts. Some suggested the courts are the only flat portion of the park and also serve other functions when big events are held at Bergfeld.

Spencer also suggested improving the landscaping and feel of the park because of its location on the Azalea Trail, adding the area only has six azalea bushes. There are also three different types of benches, and few concrete slabs underneath picnic tables, which add to the maintenance of the park.

The existing playground equipment is an older style and exceeded its usefulness, Spencer said.

“We are seeing a shift to a different kind of playground, and it’s a little more integrated into the natural environment,” he said.

The idea for the renovations came from the Bergfeld Neighborhood Committee, and the funds for MHS’s services was pull through a partnership with the committee and the city of Tyler, said Don Warren with the neighborhood committee.

Spencer said the firm is half way through the planning process of the park, but wanted to gauge the community that would use it before making any final decisions. Following the meeting, the firm will make a second plan and bring it back to community members for approval.

Once a final plan and schematic is in place, community members and the city would address how to fund the project.

“We are visiting with the city about using the a half-cent sales tax, or a public-private partnership, but what I’ve found its people who want to give money want to see something on paper, not now just something in our heard,” Warren said.