McALLEN — Two competing visions exist for the future of the old Crockett Elementary and the parklands around it, and although that future is decidedly uncertain, city and school board leadership are likely to hash out whether the land becomes a park with just about every amenity imaginable, private property or something in between.
City Commissioner Seby Haddad addressed the McAllen ISD school board about the city’s plans for the park at their Jan. 18 meeting after hearing the district was considering selling the campus.
That news conflicted with the city’s plans for the park, Haddad said, noting that the city is “shovel-ready” to proceed with significant improvements.
The school has been closed since 2011, Monitor archives show, although it still functions in the capacity of an administrative annex.
McAllen ISD owns the entire 12.41 acre parcel, but a 2014 interlocal agreement allowed the city to develop the park.
City leaders have championed improving the park for over a decade.
“We obviously want to work with the school district on knowing what maybe the future plans for Crockett may be,” Haddad said at the meeting. “I know in selling the property the major concern I have is that we obviously would then lose control as to what would exist in the future on this property.”
Currently, Haddad said, the park has a small running trail and a native plant farm on the north side and a playground and all-in-inclusive playscape on the south side. He said the 2019-20 budget added some funds to improve Crockett Park, including changing its fencing, adding mini-practice soccer fields and skate and dog park facilities.
“Crockett has a lot of features,” Haddad said. “What we really wanted to do is beautify it, look to some revitalization, add some new features and make it a little more appealing to the surrounding community.”
Haddad said public interest in Crockett Park is high, and that those improvement plans are part of a push by the city to revitalize parks in older parts of McAllen.
“It’s very difficult to create parks within sort of the real dense urban older parts of McAllen,” he said. “Once you remove a park it’s never going to come back. So this is something that we really wanted to salvage, it’s a pretty significant large park that the city of McAllen maintains, obviously in conjunction with the school property.”
Although trustees expressed support for those efforts, they also said that the district has different plans for land.
They said due to dropping enrollment in that area, no students attend that campus and it has no educational value to the district.
In fact, they said, Crockett Elementary is a financial liability to the district that it would very much like to be rid of.
“Crockett Elementary is a really, really old facility,” Trustee Debbie Crane-Aliseda said. “It needs a new roof, the building leaks, that’s why our department of technology has already moved out. We’re moving out our instructional technology people.
“Everybody that’s there right now we’re in the process of moving them out because it was in our strategic plan that we were going to get rid of Crockett because to maintain that building it’s costing the taxpayers a lot of money.”
Crane-Aliseda said that by selling the school and opening the land up to developers, it would pave the way for more residences that would bolster enrollment and tax revenues for the school district.
Other trustees echoed that sentiment.
“The way that the school district generates revenue is through enrollment and through property taxes, and so our hope was to sell this property to some sort of developer that would put rooftops on there that would put children back into our schools. That would increase our enrollment and we’d collect the property taxes, so that would be a win-win for the school district,” she said.
Haddad said he hopes more parkland in the city would help accomplish that goal.
“I think a lot of the people that are coming in are looking for and want to be near walkable parks,” he said. “They want to be near things and amenities that we have on Main Street.”
Board President Conrado Alvarado said he didn’t know about all of the city’s plans for Crockett Park and suggested trustees and Haddad discuss it in a workshop meeting.
Haddad said he would welcome that discussion, saying the city may be open to helping repair facilities at the school or may be open to accepting it as a donation and turning it into a community center or Boys & Girls Club.
“I would just hope that we don’t go to a hasty decision of simply putting it on the market and selling it out instead of discussing possible options of maybe selling a portion of it, maybe the part that the building’s on, maybe selling only the south side or the north side, or coming up with some type of solution, whether it’s a mixed solution that satisfies all parties,” he said. “We’d love to maintain and keep that park there.”