"QUALITY OF PLACE: RECREATION AND EVENTS IN KERR COUNTY"
The phrase "quality of place" is something the Kerr Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas likes to use, making increasing sense the more you think about it.
The frequently asked question of what Kerrville offers is one bandied about, one we're asked all the time at The Lead, but it's one that many of us know the answer to — the Texas Hill Country is beautiful.
In 2021, Kerrville may have cemented itself as an essential destination for those looking for an alternative to the sprawl of Texas' largest cities. While it's hard to quantify these qualities, some of the metrics we do have, including:
- A rise in vacation home short-term rentals, which has helped fuel better-than-expected hotel occupancy tax collections.
- There is a rise in booking at Kerrville-Schreiner Parking camping sites, which has been the best in years.
- And the use of Scott Schreiner Municipal Golf Course has gone from being a money loser to being positive — barely.
Other indicators like the attendance at the Kerrville Chalk Festival, the Fourth on the River, and the River Festival indicated that big things are simmering. The Kerrville Triathlon Festival also had a major turnout in its return from a coronavirus-forced year off.
These events don't include the scores of other events dedicated to the arts, music and sports that make up the recreation opportunities available to residents and visitors in Kerr County.
There is still danger in being overconfident about some of these, including the long-term viability of Arcadia Live!, which needed a buoy from the Kerrville Economic Improvement Corp. That's not dismissing the achievement of preserving the historic theater, but the fickle expense of serving as a live music venue can be worrisome.
However, Kerr County stands ahead of many communities of its size with its facilities and programming — not to mention 1,000 acres of parklands and a river and two small reservoirs.
Swimmers get ready to dive into Nimitz Lake for the swimming portion of the Kerrville Triathlon Festival.
Kerrville boating enthusiast John Anderson can't wait to help build out a vision for a Lake Nimitz marina — possibly at Kerrville's newest park dedicated to the late Granger MacDonald, an enthusiastic booster for the city. Naturalists and bird watchers want to see more activities along the river trail. Artists want more opportunities to paint more murals along the river trail.
So, all of this is mounting, and in 2022, the Kerrville Parks and Recreation Department will begin a deep dive into the needs and wants of the community when it comes to recreation. Led by the department's director, Ashlea Boyle, Kerrville intends to reshape the park master plan, along with its programming.
During a listening session, participants discuss ideas for recreation and event opportunities in Kerrville.
More than 50 items were highlighted during a recent community scoping meeting, including nearly 20 involving access to the Guadalupe River and its emerging trail system. How the department will shape these activities will be balanced between the needs of residents and an economic driver.
Kerrville hasn't quite caught the pickle ball craze, but games are offered at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
"First of all, it's an amenity that our visitors can use, and it makes our city attractive but it also for those of us that live here," said former City Councilwoman Delayne Sigerman. "It's a way of life that we now have, and I'm able to connect and have other parts of the city, the northern and the western parts."
In turn, Boyle said she sees a rise of private-public partnerships along the river and river trail to improve the overall experience. Those partnerships are yet to be defined, but they could help usher in a new wave of opportunity in 2022. Finally, that momentum and the deepening list of events and recreations is broadening Salinas' term of "quality of place," which helps attract people to Kerrville.
Of course, when they get here, the challenge remains — can they afford it, or will it be that pleasant place to stay to escape the heat and humidity of the cities?