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With limited vacant land left in the city, and large tracts of it being used for corporations and residents moving to the area, Plano’s parks and recreation department is working to provide park space and amenities to enhance the natural scenery of the area.

One of the most recent purchases by the department includes land that currently hosts the Los Rios Golf Club in southeastern Plano.

“It has been on our master plan for a while; we had identified it years ago as desirable property,” said Amy Fortenberry, director of parks and recreation. “You take advantage of the land that’s there.”

The city purchased the 194-acre piece of land from Golf Addicks LLC for about $3.5 million. According to Duke January, manager and head golfer at Los Rios, the golf course was approached by a developer wanting to use the land and was turned down. The course entered into negotiations with the city in 2008. Fortenberry said that oversaturation of golf in the DFW market and declining popularity in the sport may have also been contributing factors.

According to the agreement with the city, Los Rios will remain in control of the property for at least five years, paying a lease of $1 annually to the city. After five years, the course will have an optional one-year extension. Fortenberry said the agreement allows the city time to acquire funding to transform the course into parkland, which would likely come from a future bond referendum. In 2013, a bond referendum was passed, allocating $27 million for park improvements and an additional $12.5 million for recreation center improvements.

“As long as [the course] supports itself, we’re going to keep it as long as we can,” January said. “We plan on investing more money into the golf course. ... We’re going to definitely keep it at least the six years.”

Once the city takes full control of the property, it plans to make the area “passive parkland,” which means that it will remain mostly natural with walking and biking trails running through it, similar to Bob Woodruff Park that connects to it. The course mostly lies within a floodplain, making passive parkland the most appropriate use of the property, Fortenberry said.

The park will not only connect to surrounding parks, but it will also become part of the Six City Trail Plan, which is sponsored by the cities of Plano, Allen, Frisco, Garland, McKinney and Richardson. The plan is a coordinated effort among the cities to create an interconnected trail system that allows residents to walk and bike on trails throughout the cities, mostly without having to use vehicle thoroughfares. According to Fortenberry, the park could also become connected to the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Regional Veloweb, a network of about 1,668 miles of both on-street and shared-use bike paths.

Bicycling as a mode of transportation was first introduced to the city’s comprehensive plan in 1985.

“Our trails have been planned out for years on how they will connect and how they will connect with our neighboring cities,” Fortenberry said. “Some people are very comfortable riding on the streets and some aren’t, so having these trails off the streets are great for families and people ... who enjoy being outside and in the park. In the urban environment it’s hard to get those outdoor experiences.

Public meetings with residents in the surrounding neighborhoods are expected in order to get input on what types of uses and amenities should be included in the park, Fortenberry said.

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