Community residents can take a closer look next week at sketch plans for possible improvements to three parks in Statesboro and offer some feedback on the ideas.
The city of Statesboro will host a livestreamed “virtual open house” on its Facebook page, presenting the concepts for Luetta Moore Park, Grady Street Park and Memorial Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
After county commissioners agreed to commit $1 million of sales tax revenue for improvements to parks operated by the Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Department inside Statesboro’s city limits, the county and city contracted Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions to do a study.
“The parks, I think, are very well maintained, but because of their age there’s a lot of facilities that are really inaccessible, and when you read through the draft you’ll see how evident that is,” Ron Huffman, senior principal at the Wood firm, told Statesboro’s mayor and council during a March 17 work session.
City officials watched a brief slide show, which included observations about the parks’ existing features as well as ideas for additions and renovations, while Huffman commented by speaker phone.
Since regulations have changed over the years, even well-maintained bleachers and restrooms no longer meet accessibility requirements, he said. So that is one rationale for renovating some park features or replacing them entirely.
The consultants first visited the parks in January, and since then interviewed city officials and Parks & Recreation staff. So other features suggested in the sketches reflect what officials would like to see, or reported that community residents would like to see, at each of the parks.
For example, residents of City Council District 2, including Councilwoman Paulette Chavers, have long expressed interest in adding a swimming pool or other water feature at Luetta Moore Park.
Luetta Moore concept
Either of the Wood firm’s two slightly different concept proposals for Luetta Moore Park would eliminate the softball field south of the park’s existing Jones-Love Cultural Center, replacing the field with multiple new attractions. These would include one or two water features, a volleyball court, two family pavilions with grills, a multi-age playground and possibly tennis courts.
“What I heard in the interviews was there’s a desire for diverse programming that reflects the neighborhood needs,” Huffman said. “What we’ve learned is the big softball field is really not programmed.”
In other words, it isn’t used much for planned games.
“I think I heard from staff that one of the middle schools uses it, but other than that it’s an unprogrammed field,” Huffman said.
To be clear, the softball field proposed for elimination is the one on the same side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as the community building known as the Jones-Love Cultural Center.
The concept calls for preserving the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field, on the other side of MLK Drive, with renovations, an improved parking lot and a crosswalk linking it to the rest of the park.
Both versions of the concept would extend the parking lot behind the Jones-Lane Cultural Center southward to include 42 more parking spaces.
One or two water features would then be added just south of the parking lot. Huffman referred to this area as a “mini-aquatic facility” and the centerpiece of the plan.
In this space, one sketch shows both a splash pad and a three-lane “teaching pool,” not deep enough for diving but where swimming lessons could be taught. The alternative concept would install a larger splash pad but no pool. But both concepts call for a bathhouse with restrooms.
Either plan would preserve the existing basketball courts, but the old playground near the courts would be removed, making way for s storm water detention pond. The walking trail would be maintained.
“I think that what you did with the space that was there kind of broadened my imagination of what this park could actually be and what it can actually offer to the community,” Councilwoman Chavers told Huffman. “I am ecstatic about seeing this plan.”
Can’t do it all
No cost estimates were provided as of mid-March, but Huffman and City Manager Charles Penny noted that the promised $1 million will not go very far as officials consider improvements to three parks.
“I’m not saying that at Louetta Moore what see in that sketch can be done for a million dollars,” Huffman said on the phone.
Penny suggested that the elected officials focus on specific parks and think about the impact the improvements will have in the community.
“You can phase it in and have little impact or you can go focused and have big impact,” he said.
Grady Street Park
With just open-air basketball courts and some restrooms, the park on Grady Street currently has the fewest amenities.
The consultant’s concept would create a covered, but open-sided, basketball pavilion, containing three courts. An uncovered half court would be added at the end of the parking lot, which would be expanded to 36 spaces.
Two family picnic pavilions would be installed and a playground added at the end of the parking lot away from the basketball courts. The restrooms would be renovated, with steel fixtures replacing the porcelain, Huffman said. A 1,040-foot walking trail and landscaping and more trees complete the suggested Grady Street Park plan.
The study also resulted in a concept sketch for Memorial Park, on Fair Road where the Honey Bowen Building is located. But officials said this is the least likely priority with the current funding and the need to fit the plans with those for the Creek on the Blue Mile project, which is still in a feasibility study.
The sketch includes Huffman’s ideas to create a Veteran’s Memorial Park with memorial pavers extending ray-like from a circular walk around a flagpole. An amphitheater had previously been suggested, and his sketch calls for one that could seat 2,500 people.
Penny suggested that such a veterans park might be funded with help from benefactors.
The open house
Huffman and Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles are the scheduled presenters for Tuesday’s 6 p.m. open house livestreamed on “The City of Statesboro” Facebook page. Citizens can post comments on a special page at the city’s website, www.statesboroga.gov/community-feedback.
Penny said he wants the city to host an in-person open house on the plans after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
The county paid Huffman’s firm $22,000 for the initial assessment and sketches, said city Public Information Officer Layne Phillips. The city and county will work together to fund any improvements, she said.