Rec Plan Presented

Garett Younanian (left) and Steve Fritts of Barge Design presented a proposed Parks & Rec master plan to the Guntersville City Council last Friday. The Council could vote to approve it at their Sept. 16 meeting. 

Barge Design has come up with a plan to renovate the ball field complex and do other work to the Parks and Rec complex of Guntersville.

Engineers Steve Fritts and Garett Younanian presented their findings to the City Council last Friday. 

The plan would add an extra ballfield to the park complex, along with expanding parking, better gate control going into the ballfields and possibly a "pedestrian underpass" to help walkers, joggers and bike riders more safely negotiate the Highway 69 intersection.

A copy of the proposed master plan is on page 3 of this paper. 

The cost of the proposed upgrades has been placed at between $16 and $17 million. Mayor Leigh Dollar said it would be built in phases over a period of years using the proceeds of the new half-cent sales tax the city started getting earlier this summer. 

The first work would likely take place at the ballfields next to the Rec Center tennis courts, where a 3rd field would be added. New parking would also be added, along with a restroom that would serve both the fields and the tennis courts.

Dollar has called the theme for the new restrooms and other facilities "lakesy-woodsy," meaning she wants structures that blend in well with the grass, trees and lake of the parks. 

Fritts said the chain link fencing being proposed for the fields will be black vinyl coated so it will blend in well with he background, better than just metal chain link.

A large splash pad is planned behind the Rec Center, near the swimming pools. They're popular features in lots of places nowadays. 

City leaders, including the mayor, have fretted about people using the walking trails having to cross Highway 69, especially children. Some kids leave the middle school every day and walk or ride their bikes to the Rec Center. Barge has proposed a "pedestrian underpass" under the highway to alleviate that problem. 

"Garrett talked to ALDOT about it," Fritts said. "They didn't say no."

The underpass would be moved out more towards the causeway to avoid the large gas main on the corner of Highway 69 and Sunset. Fritts cautioned that more studies are needed to determine if the underpass is doable.

"One thing we have to look at is the water table and whether pumps would be required in the underpass," Younanian said. 

In the Ogletree/Bill Moore complex of fields, the fields would be reconfigured to allow for central gate control, a key feature required by tournaments. 

"You would have three 220-foot fields, suitable for hosting any tournament," Fritts said. 

They're also looking at changing access to the parking lots in the area of Tom Jackson Field at the corner of Highway 69 and Sunset. Now, traffic to the boat ramp and traffic to the ball field use the same entrance. That would change under the latest proposal. 

"We have talked to ALDOT about it," Fritts said. "Again, they didn't say no."

Councilman Phil Kelley asked if there was a cost estimate on the underpass. Fritts said it was $929,000. It would be a Phase 2 project or it could be a separate project on its own.

"How long will Phase 1 take to complete?" Councilman Carson Ray asked. Phase 1 is the ballfields next to the tennis courts. 

Fritts said the projected construction time is 9 to 11 months. 

"Depending on the contractor, it could be done in as little as 7 to 8 months," Fritts said.

Fritts noted that in all of the construction, the city dog park stays intact. 

Someone on the Council asked about the cost estimate and whether bids could come in way high. Fritts said Barge does a lot of projects in a lot of places and their estimates are typically very good. He gave the Council a "low end" and "high end" cost estimate for all the work that ranged from $16,988,000 to $17,837,00.

On some of the big ticket items, including the splash pad and lighting for the fields, Barge has already gotten cost estimates from vendors.

Rec director Matt Bryant said he and the Rec Board have been working on the rec plan for some time. He said phasing the work in and adding fields will meet the needs of the Rec Center. 

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