Imagined as an oasis at the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Westside Community Park within the Three Hills (Mulberry Dam) Park in El Paso acts as a gateway to hiking the adjacent undeveloped terrain. The challenge was to turn the 100-acre detention basin that was ignored by the developing community into a new park and recreation center and to preserve the drainage ponds set up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The USACE had specific rules protecting the flood drainage ponds’ capacity. Soil could be taken out, but no fill soil was to be brought in.

PSC partnered with award-winning Schrickel, Rollins and Associates, a well-known civil engineering and landscape architecture firm, to master plan the site. Since then, the two firms have merged. The City of El Paso selected SRA to provide master planning for the park, detailed design of the recreation facilities and landscape development. PSC provided site planning and design services to develop a conceptual site plan that would satisfy arroyo advocates and hikers and bikers thirsty for new trails, and that would overall be a beneficial use of precious open space. The trails were left in their original state to preserve the plant life and wildlife found within the Mulberry Reservoir.

While mapping the flood elevations, engineers and hydrologists witnessed the 100-year flood of 2006 and how it affected the detention ponds’ storage capacity. The analysis showed which portion of the land was above flood danger. PSC calculated about 33,000 cubic yards of cut and about 32,500 cubic yards of fill. The 30,000-square-foot Don Haskins Recreation Center, concession building for girls’ softball fields, and large picnic pavilion were sited at that highest elevation. Trails for mountain biking and hiking, beginner and intermediate trails and other amenities.

The recreation center and associated outdoor amenities are the first phase of the master plan. Sited on a remnant parcel of flood control land, the project elevated the components, including a gym, basketball and volleyball courts, athletic fields and covered playgrounds. Preliminary collaboration with the owner and interested citizens affirmed the building as the park’s center of activity, an idea that is reflected in its radiating geometry. This design maximizes visual control for staff while orientating patrons to their destinations through a series of arches that correspond with various activities. The center stands out as a beacon against the desert landscape with both subtle and bright washes of color, while simultaneously offering patrons opportunities to connect with nature.

Westside Community Park Master Site Plan