County plans bright future, changes for Ascarate Park
Updated: Wednesday, October 16 2013, 10:30 PM MDT
By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO: Texas--Ascarate Park has undergone major transformations in the past few years.
Now it's starting to play host to big events and enjoying a new-found popularity. That means more opportunities for the county to cash in on the success, invest more in the park while generating the revenue to sustain the parks operations and maintenance costs.
"Through the years it's been changing a lot," said Greg Ramirez, an east side resident.
Ramirez said he started fishing at Ascarate Lake when he was a kid and now fishes there daily.
County Commissioner Sergio Lewis said the transformation has started to pay off.
"The green scene really doesn't make you a lot of money. So the county commissioners court and our staff are doing everything we can to add to a sustainability element," said Lewis.
The county is working on a business plan to make Ascarate self-sustaining, but so far the improvements have helped take a big chunk out of the roughly $1.4 million operating and maintenance costs.
Since 2006, revenues have doubled thanks in part to big events like the Sun City Music Festival which this past summer pulled in $30,000 at the gate for the county.
Ascarate also attracts popular events that are less profitable but still showcase the park, like the Color Run and Mud Rush.
"I like to think these types of events add to the promotion add to the attraction of Ascarate Parka and Ascarate Lake," said Lewis.
A good portion of the park is still the desolate, Western Playland graveyard, but Lewis said they're working on plans to turn it into an entertainment area or another way to generate more money.
Recently, the park opened the Pavilion to the public to rent for private parties and events like graduations, quinceneras and weddings.
"I think this will be a gem in the region," said Lewis.
Lewis said the county's in the process of bringing some historic notoriety to the park as well.
"It's a big asset for the county. We are also working on a historical marker that will also be here at Ascarate and from there, hopefully, we will get some historical attention on it also," said Lewis.
In the future, Lewis hopes there might even be a nice place to wine and dine.
"I'm hopeful that even someday we can have a restaurant on the lake something that would really truly bring a nice serenity to dinner time," said Lewis.
For people like Ramirez who enjoy spending time at the park, he said its fun to see the changes but there are a few more improvements he'd like to see, including more bathrooms, water fountains and one other thing.
"That's what we need, more fish," said Ramirez.
Lewis said the golf course is also enjoying more popularity and the county recently added 100 new golf carts to improve the course.
A few years ago the future of Ascarate seemed bleak. But as the county invests in the park and the community invests back Lewis said he's excited about what's to come.
"I think we will have a park that will compete with any park in the state and that says a lot coming from a community and a park three years ago that didn't look or have the business element that it has today," said Lewis.
Recently, county commissioners decided to bump up the entrance fees to from $1 to $2 on the weekends and $5 for special events.
That money goes towards making more improvements and continuing towards the goal of making the park self-sustaining.