The first responders who died in the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion in West could soon be memorialized in the city park, which West officials hope to rebuild in their honor.
On Thursday, members of the Texas Farm Bureau will donate nearly $50,000 toward the park, which was destroyed in the blast.
The donation comes on the heels of Saturday’s hot dog fundraiser, which raised more than $80,000 for its reconstruction. The fundraiser was the idea of 4-year-old Parker Pustejovsky, whose father, a volunteer firefighter, died in the blast.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said the park is still in the planning phase, but will contain a special area to commemorate the fallen first responders, possibly containing a fountain or water element.
“The West City Park was about 50 feet from the blast site,” Muska said. “We’ve got a lot of opportunity to do something with that property close to where first responders died; it’s like our ground zero.”
Other ideas for the park include tennis courts, a jungle gym, walking or fitness trails and a splash pad, Muska said. A Dallas-based architect already has volunteered to design the park for free, Muska said.
Muska said he wants the park to be an improvement on the original and ensure it is around for generations to come, especially because he has personal ties to it.
“My father was mayor when the park was built,” Muska said. “I don’t want to lose that park. It was one of his key projects as mayor, and to expand on it is something I truly want to accomplish.”
Texas farmers and ranchers will make an even larger donation to West EMS on Thursday.
Dr. George Smith, West EMS director, said the $125,000 donation will help equip the department’s ambulances with stretchers, a monitor and other essentials. The department received $129,000 to help pay for the ambulances themselves earlier this week.
“I feel overwhelmed with the generosity,” Smith said. “We really appreciate the help.”
But he said EMS is still in need of new CPR training dummies, beds for the night crew, IVs and other supplies.