Thursday, July 28, 2016

Those Places Thursday: CC Beach Parks - Then (1982) and Later (2006)

This is what I wrote for a story called "Beach park to provide new types of play equipment" on the front page of the October 1982 issue of City Quill, the newsletter for City of Corpus Christi employees produced by the Information Services department, which I worked for at that time.  Since I had worked for the Parks and Recreation department for two and a half years prior to that, I was typically assigned all of the stories related to that department.  At that time, North Beach was called Corpus Christi Beach or CC Beach.

Drive out to the north end of Corpus Christi Beach sometime this month, and you'll probably find park construction crews hard at work.  Near a recently-completed 52-space parking lot, the crews are utilizing the slab from a house destroyed in Hurricane Allen as the base of a group picnic shelter.

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew works on converting the slab of a house destroyed in 1980's Hurricane Allen into a group picnic shelter on North Beach in September 1982.

Across the lot, next to the restrooms/shower building, others are placing telephone poles and boulders to simulate a beached, wrecked ship.  Climbers, a slide, and a swing will be added to this "adventure playground" designed to stimulate the minds of youngsters.

With land acquisition nearly complete, development of recreational facilities on Corpus Christi Beach is now underway.  With restroom buildings and parking/access complete or nearly complete at the north and south ends of the beach, park construction crews are beginning work on two group picnic shelters and the "Shipwreck" adventure playground, and will install the 40' by 40' by 24' "Spacenet" rope climber recently authorized for purchase by the City Council.

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew installs the "Spacenet" rope climber on North Beach in September 1982.

Although the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers plan and the 1977 bond program, which is the source of funds for the project, originally called for five access points to the beach, the City decided to build two such points for now and provide facilities with them.  "We're concentrating on the extreme northern and southern ends," said Park and Recreation's Landscape Architect Malcolm Matthews.

Parking at the southern end is tied in with North Shoreline street improvements now underway and will provide approximately 34 spaces.  The existing slab for another building destroyed by Hurricane Allen will be used as the base for a group picnic shelter adjacent to the restroom building.

Recently completed (in September 1982) restroom building at the southern access park.  Based on the location of the breakwater in the background, this restroom likely had to be removed to accommodate the access ramp to the USS Lexington aircraft carrier.  The restroom building at the northern access park (today's Dolphin Park) is similar.

Both the north end and south end shelters will be constructed with lath-top roofs similar to that of the picnic shelter in Cole Park.  A solid roof, according to Matthews, would probably blow away in hurricane-force winds.  In addition, air can circulate through the slats in the roof.  "It will provide shade but it won't be completely dry if it rains," said Matthews.  The slab at the south end is quite large, and "the majority of it will be resurfaced and used for roller-skating and dancing, similar to the Peoples' Street T-Head band shell area," added Matthews.

Above: Malcolm Matthews, City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation department's Landscape Architect, and his design for the "Shipwreck" playground for the north end access park on North Beach, September 1982.
Below:  close-up of the "Shipwreck" plan, detail from the photo above.

The "Shipwreck" adventure playground is one of the most exciting features of the new park.  Designed by Matthews, the facility uses pressure-treated, non-toxic telephone poles, boulders, and a modular pre-fabricated wooden playground unit all put together to resemble a half-buried, deteriorated ship.  Its features include a "cargo net" for climbing, a "fallen mast" (an angled pole with a rope swing), a slide, and various wooden decks and ladders.  It also has the potential to add more features, such as a "steering wheel" on the "main deck."

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew works on the deck of the
 "Shipwreck" adventure playground at the north end of North Beach (today's Dolphin Park).

Some landscaping is also included in the project.  Palm trees and pampas grass, as well as boulders, posts, and rails will be used to stabilize sand areas as well as serve as vehicular barriers.  All landscaping and facilities are designed to be salt- and sand-tolerant as well as to withstand tidal surges and hurricane force winds.

So what has happened to these areas in the last 30+ years?

Sadly, the "Spacenet" and much of the "Shipwreck" is now gone.  The pictures below are from our visit in May 2006.  The "cargo net" and the "fallen mast" had disappeared from the "Shipwreck," and this was about all that remained of the "main deck" and the bow of the ship.  Even less of the Shipwreck was visible on our latest visit in June 2016.

What's left of the "main deck" structure (above) and the bow of the "Shipwreck" (below) in May 2006.

The beach access point at the extreme northern end referred to in the article has since been named "Dolphin Park." It still has the restroom/shower building and a picnic shelter (although the latter may not be the original one), but a more typical, traditional playground has been installed in the area.

However, the restroom building, and likely the shelter, at the south end (referred to in my article) are gone.  Based on the photo earlier in this post of that south end restroom building, it is right where the entrance to the access ramp to the USS Lexington aircraft carrier now stands.

Why did the "Spacenet" disappear and the "Shipwreck" deteriorate?  A friend who continued to work for the City of Corpus Christi through 2005 told us that the north end of the beach suffered from continual erosion, which likely contributed to the situation.  But I think there is more to the story.

A number of city parks are up for sale or have been sold.  When I worked for the Parks and Recreation department, the city had a parks dedication ordinance that required developers to set aside a certain percentage of the land to be developed as park land.  Unfortunately, this resulted in a lot of very small parks, often not in the best locations, with little money to develop or maintain them.  I think parks maintenance overall suffered.

My former co-worker Malcolm Matthews had a better ending.  He went on to be the director of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation department, and then the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation department director (1998June 2008).  He served as the president of the Texas Recreation and Park Society (TRAPS) in 1999-2000.  He spent the last six years of his career as Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kerrville, Texas, retiring in February 2016.  He was tapped in early June to serve as interim deputy city manager, until the new one starts in August.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

No comments:

Post a Comment