By CHERIL VERNON
PALESTINE — City of Palestine officials applauded the efforts of Innovation Academy students who presented their “Lake Side Park” proposal to the group Wednesday in the hopes of making Upper Lake a more viable part of the community.
Students in the fifth grade and sixth grade at The University of Texas at Tyler Innovation Academy Palestine Campus have been working on a proposal to make improvements and additions to Upper Lake since the beginning of school. The idea started from a first-day-of-school talk by Palestine Mayor Therrell Thomas, who encouraged the students to make their community a better place to live, which generated discussion among the students on improving the area around Upper Lake.
The students' proposal for a 106-acre Lake Side Park near what is called the Upper Lake East entrance would include an airsoft area (similar to paintball), a skate park, fenced-in playground, cabins (that would be available to rent) and tent area, wildlife park, restroom facilities, etc.
Students who were selected by their peers to present the proposal were Katherine Grerkey, Anna Weisinger, Bayleigh Collins, Liam McLinda, Michael Flynn and Kolby Dunn.
The students explained how the addition of the Lake Side Park would improve the quality of life for Palestine residents and visitors.
“They did a excellent job on their presentation,” City of Palestine Parks & Recreation Director Roy Crouch said.
Besides Crouch, the City of Palestine Parks Superintendent Ron Thames and Palestine City Councilman Mark Price were on hand for the presentation.
Crouch invited the students to make their presentation to the City of Palestine Parks Board, which will meet on Nov. 5. He explained to the students that the Parks & Recreation Department was given a directive last year by former City Manager Ohrt to work on a master plan for the Upper Lake area.
“We know our lake is a crown jewel that is not being utilized,” Crouch said. “With Sanderson Farms and other businesses coming in, one of the questions that they always ask is what kinds of quality of life/recreational opportunities does your city offer for our employees?”
Crouch said he was open to the students' suggestions and hopes to work together to put together a plan that could utilize some of the students' ideas and some of the city's ideas for the area and encouraged the group to think about fund-raising possibilities.
“This was a wonderful educational experience for the students,” Innovation Academy teacher Danny Rodriguez said.
Price also stressed to the students that the process they used to address the city officials is a process they as adults have used many times in their careers, explaining how meetings after meetings may lead back to the drawing board, but eventually it can be a “yes” if things get reworked if concerns are addressed.
“You will do this for the rest of your life, there are always obstacles,” Price said.
Crouch reiterated,” But there's nothing better than when that project does come to fruition and you can give everyone involved a 'high five.'”