Seley Park in North Waco is about to get a $216,000 makeover, a project sparked by an anonymous donor.

The city of Waco is planning this year to spend federal block grant money to pave a walking trail, replace swing sets and build handicap-accessible ramps for the gazebo at the park at North 18th Street and Bosque Boulevard.

The city also will use $20,000 a private donor designated for the park to install outdoor exercise equipment, such as chin-up bars and rowing machines. The donation caused parks officials to take a closer look at the park’s needs, and they decided to target an additional $196,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the project.

“This park is kind of on the small side for a neighborhood park, and it serves a large community,” said Tom Balk, a city parks planner. “We need to be sensitive to maximizing its use.”

The parks department also is partnering with the Sanger-Heights Neighborhood Association to renovate the park’s Victorian-style gazebo, which the association built in 1986. The neighborhood association has a few thousand dollars in a fund to maintain the structure and is looking at painting it and fixing the shingles.

“It’s going to be great for our neighborhood,” said Ellen Filgo, president of the neighborhood association. “The park needs a facelift. Anytime I drive by there, I see people walking around the track and playing pick-up basketball games.”

Association vice president Fernando Arroyo said the park complements the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood, including new houses along North 15th Street and the proposed redevelopment of the Sanger School property.

“I think it helps contribute to making this a neighborhood of choice for people who want to move here,” Arroyo said. “It helps improve the aesthetics and provides a public place where people can be neighbors to each other. . . . I’ll definitely be using all the chin-up bars and sit-up equipment.”

The park dates back at least to 1918, when it was dedicated in memory of W.W. Seley, a leading banker and field commander of Waco’s Camp MacArthur during World War I.

But it got a new lease on life in 1986, when the fledgling neighborhood association partnered with the city and the Cooper Foundation to renovate it. The new gazebo, designed by Waco architect Sterling Thompson and echoing the cupola on the Sanger School, became the centerpiece of the park and a symbol of the neighborhood.

The improvements also included a quarter-mile trail, part concrete and part crushed granite.

But after 27 years, the park’s facilities are showing their age, officials said. The crushed granite section of the trail will be paved, and the old exercise stations will be removed and replaced with more modern equipment in a centralized location.

Nora Reed, treasurer of the neighborhood association and a daily user of the park, said it’s a popular place and deserves some attention.

“When I started walking there a long time ago, hardly anybody used it. Now there are a lot of people walking there.”

Reed said she would prefer to keep a gravel trail rather than 
concrete.

Trail concerns

Balk, the park planner, said he’s aware that many walkers and runners prefer soft surfaces, but the existing crushed granite trail tends to get muddy and overgrown with grass, and the concrete trail will be accessible for wheelchairs and baby strollers.

Balk said design for the project will begin in April, and the city council could approve a contract for the construction in early summer, for an opening date in early 2014.

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