Plans are underway for the rejuvenation of Stephenville's downtown locale.

"Usually when people talk about downtown revitalization, they are just thinking about the square," Mayor Kenny Weldon said.

But for Weldon and others calling for a new vision, the area encompasses a great deal more.

“We can define the downtown area we are addressing as going from Tarleton on the west to the hospital on the north to Washington Street bridge on the east to the park on the south,” he explained.

And tied securely to the enterprise is the ambitious task of augmenting the river walk and adding to its aesthetic appeal.

Stephenville has often surprised people on the outside with its community spirit and Herculean efforts to support one another. The resolve to improve the park system and revitalize the downtown area is no different from any other endeavor Stephenville has set its sights upon.

“They don't call us the City of Champions for nothing,” Keep Stephenville Beautiful's Metta Collier said.

Monday brought some exciting news to Collier and other members of the team seeking to nab a grant offered by the National Parks Service.

“When the lady from the National Parks Services called, she told me the agency's director, who has had that position for 18 years, has never seen a grant turned in with 23 support letters,” Collier said. “Only three are required.”

Collier, Weldon and local business woman, Michele Dunkerley, were scrupulous in ensuring the community was on board with their proposals.

A glance at the list of individuals and entities that sent in letters of support is testament to the backing the grant writers had at their disposal. City, county and educational leaders lent their voices in favor of the project by penning those 23 missives.

“I can't give one person credit for this,” Collier said. “It has been a community effort with the city, the county and the Chamber of Commerce all working together.”

The grant allows for the National Park Service's provision of assistance and expertise for one year, leading the community in the direction necessary to get the phases of the river project accomplished.

While the grant does not allocate money to its recipients, it does offer something even more important.

“This is truly a big deal,” Collier said. “The clout the National Parks Service carries will help us to get funds and make this reality. Their support is a huge factor. It's like opening the door for us with a really large door knob.”

Dunkerly and Weldon worked together to draft the grant, editing and revising it numerous times before submitting it.

“We had five weeks to pull it all together,” Dunkerley said. “And there was immediate response. We really just built on what Metta spearheaded with last summer's community wide work of cleaning up the Bosque.”

It was to be a whirlwind experience, and the success of the grant drive caught the group off guard.

“We are like the dogs that caught the bus,” Dunkerley said with a laugh. “It's like we were chasing after a bus, looked up and realized we had caught it. We were just out there, yipping around, and all of sudden we've caught this huge thing.”

While no one was willing to be acknowledged for being the driving force in the effort, Dunkerley was quick to sing the praises of her cohorts.

“With that dream team we can get anything done,” she said. “The sky is truly the limit.”

For more information about the exciting plans for park revitalization, see Tuesday's edition of the Empire-Tribune.