County Judge, Veronica Escobar

  • Ascarate improvements are evident
  • By Veronica Escobar / Guest columnist

  • Over the last several years, Ascarate Park has been in the headlines and a topic of significant debate among different Commissioners Court administrations, various stakeholders and the neighborhoods surrounding the park. This healthy debate means our community is taking ownership in one of the greatest parks in El Paso.
  • In an editorial two weeks ago, the El Paso Times pleaded with Commissioners Court to stop "dawdling" and "do something!" with a "stagnating" Ascarate. The editorial was in response to Judge Cobos's erroneous claims that there's "no plan" when it comes to the park.

  • While I understand as well as anyone how frustratingly slow the wheels of government can turn, I'm proud of the great strides the current county administration has made in improving Ascarate.

  • The progress is impressive. In less than two years, we have inaugurated a new bridge at the golf course, hired a golf professional who will help us address current and future needs and made unprecedented investment in the golf clubhouse, including a new roof and new air-conditioning system. Work on updated restrooms, locker rooms and a new AGCA building is on the way.

  • As part of our 2008 Capital Improvement Plan, we began investment in the rest of the park. We are creating an attractive festival area around our pavilion, a new entrance, restrooms, signage and landscaping; we are enhancing our baseball fields and upgrading aging infrastructure.

  • We have also begun advertising for a permanent parks director

    who will bring park- management skills and experience to the county.
  • In the last year, we have also brought a degree of closure to the troubled relationship with Western Playland.

  • The area that contained the remains of unusable rides, dangerous fixtures and environmental challenges is almost clean. It will soon be ready for a new tenant -- a responsive partner who will provide our families with recreational opportunities while generating revenue for the county.

  • We are also maximizing partnerships with groups like the Ascarate Fishing Club and others that use the park regularly and we are creating new partnerships.

  • In June, we celebrated the opening of the First Tee of Greater El Paso, a youth leadership program led by El Paso's Kristi Albers at our golf course.

  • It cannot be said that Ascarate is not improving. In fact, it is thriving.

  • All of this thoughtful and deliberate planning has occurred in public meetings, budget hearings, and the planning sessions for the 2008 Capital Improvement plan approved last winter.

  • We have debated each step thoroughly.

  • Two topics that pop up during every conversation about Ascarate are privatization or turning the park over to the city. While the city has not closed off the conversation about managing the park, they have not made a formal offer. Regardless of who manages the park, we cannot let it again fall into decline.

  • With regard to privatization, there are legal limitations prohibiting the county from turning the park over to private enterprise. We can partner with someone in the future to operate an amenity on the old Western Playland footprint, but we need a clean area first.

  • One thing I have heard clearly from El Pasoans all over town is that they want a park -- a green space -- they can use and be proud of. I want that, too, and that is precisely the direction we are moving in.

  • I am happy with the work county staff and I have done and will continue to do to protect the park and build partnerships with strong organizations. Ascarate Park is beloved and irreplaceable and our investments will keep it that way for generations to come.

  • County Commissioner Veronica Escobar represents Precinct 2, which includes Ascarate Park.

  • County Judge
    Veronica Escobar