Gatesville City Council voted to move forward on an agreement with engineering and consulting firm, Frees and Nichols, to perform an initial assessment of a damaged Leon River embankment in Faunt Le Roy Park.
The aim of the assessment is to aid the city in their decision on whether to proceed with repairing the park’s eroded riverbank, which received significant flood damage in 2018. The road that leads to the damaged section of the park is still closed for safety reasons.
“I believe Faunt Le Roy Park and Raby Park are great assets,” City Manager Scott Albert said. “I can’t think of too many communities who would not give what you guys have in those two parks. Obviously, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in both of those parks, but when you look at the potential and start to visualize what the impact is for this community – there’s a lot of history there.”
In 2020, another engineering firm, LJA Engineering, conducted a damage assessment of the embankment, which estimated embankment repairs to cost more than $1.3 million. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided the city with funds based on LJA’s assessment, the council has yet to decide on whether the city should utilize those funds for building a new park or repairing Faunt Le Roy Park.
City leaders have voiced concerns in previous meetings about moving forward with improvements due to concerns about how embankment repairs would stand against future flood events, a detail the LJA’s report did not fully address. The aim of the assessment is to help the city determine if the repairs will withstand future flooding, if additional work is needed to ensure long-term stability of the embankment, or if they should abandon the park.
The assessment includes monitoring the historic movement of the river to help predict future erosion and damage and where embankment repairs should start and stop.
“I’d like to see us save the park,” Council Member Greg Casey said. “If there’s a way to build some firm structures around it to protect it from erosion and keep it from encroaching in on the park, that would be great.”
The Frees and Nichols project costs $49,000, which Albert said will be funded through the city’s general capital improvement fund. The assessment will take approximately six months to complete.
“This has been ongoing since 2018,” Mayor Gary Chumley said. “People that I’ve spoken to, I’ve never had but one of them say ‘walk away from it.’ They’ve always said, ‘you need to save the park.’”
Casey adds that he has also had people approach him about repairing the park.
“If there is a way for us to move forward, I would like to see that happen,” Casey said.
The period to utilize FEMA funds is normally around three years. Since the funds were granted to the city in 2020, Albert said FEMA extended the deadline until Dec. 20. The city will request another FEMA extension for the duration of the assessment.