Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't Forget Local Residents

San Angelo’s community leadership is very pro-economic development, with tourism being a large segment of that development effort. That’s a good thing – tourism brings outside dollars into our community. When people spend money in local businesses, it adds to the ½ cent sales tax revenues that San Angelo has available for projects related to more economic development.

However, there’s another aspect that I think our city fathers overlook at times, that being activities that enhance the quality of life for those of us who live here all year. Given that a high percentage of local tax revenues are paid by residents (not visitors), the needs – and wants – of residents should be high on the list for spending priorities.

During the past few weeks, I’ve listened as our mayor, city council representatives, and city staffers discuss how we can leverage the economic development tax revenues to attract more visitors. Some of the targeted areas include the Concho River near downtown and the Lake Nasworthy area. There’s been a lot of discourse related to improving these areas to enhance tourism, but … I haven’t heard much about what could be done to improve quality of life via making these areas better for local residents to use.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m referring to. The downtown River Trail is widely used by local residents as they walk, jog, or just visit the river banks on a nice afternoon. The trails need to be improved (yes) and they need to be expanded (yes), but that area DOES NOT need to become another San Antonio-style river walk. Think about trying to go for a relaxed walk or jog through San Antonio’s river district and you’ll see what I mean.

A second example is development at Lake Nasworthy that’s intended purely to attract big events or tourists. Granted, more beaches, RV campgrounds, and maybe a few lakeside condo’s would be great, but … if we focus on developing that area solely for big events such as the drag boat races, then we’ll be depriving locals of their ability to access and use the most popular recreation areas in San Angelo. What we do need is a good network of bike/pedestrian trails to circle the reservoir and connect area neighborhoods to parks and beaches. Problem is, local users don’t bring in additional tax dollars (but, … we do already pay taxes).

San Angelo’s biggest need for quality of life is an integrated network of “Recreation Destination Resorts.” What I mean by that term is areas such as parks, the downtown river trail, etc. that serve as venues for recreation and exercise for residents. Ideally, these would be accessible via bike/pedestrian paths to encourage residents to walk, run, or bike as they journey to and from these “resort destinations. Each magnet location should have restroom facilities, water fountains, and some shaded green space.

If you don’t thing there’s a demand for this type of local infrastructure, I suggest that you go visit Gun Club Road (the KOA loop) on any evening or on a weekend morning. The area is typically crowded with people who are out for a walk or run. Imagine our city if we had multiple “KOA Loops” scattered throughout San Angelo, and – more importantly – think about the impact on fitness and wellness if those areas encouraged more people to get out and exercise. Our city fathers need to remember that we (local residents) live here year round and we all pay taxes.

Upcoming Events

July 31: Bulldog Run 10K, http://roadlizards.org/Upcoming%20Races/BulldogFlyer_2010.pdf

Aug. 7: Road Bike Time Trial, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/

Aug. 8: Wool Capitol Triathlon, www.ironheadrp.com/woolcapital/index.html

Aug. 8: Biscuits & Gravy Rotary Ride for Hunger, http://www.rotaryrideforhunger.org//

Aug. 21: Goodfellow Triathlon, http://www.roadlizards.org/Upcoming%20Races/GAFB_Flyer_2010.pdf

Sept. 11: Burma Road Time Trial, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/

Sept 18-19: Fort Davis Cyclefest, http://www.active.com/cycling/fort-davis-tx/%20fort-davis-cyclefest-tour-2010

Oct. 9-10: Texas Cycling Championships, http://www.txbra.org/

Oct 16-17: Season Opener, Texas Cup cyclocross series, http://www.txbra.org/

Oct. 30: Six Hour Mountain Bike Race, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/

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