Plans coming together for 5 city parks, including special needs park

Dec. 15—Decatur's plans for five city parks, including one for special needs children, are getting financial support through a series of federal and state grants.

Allen Stover, city Community Development supervisor, presented a proposal at this week's City Council meeting to hire Schoel-Markland Architecture for architectural services for Everyday Sunshine Park with $85,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding. The grant program is designed to improve low-income communities.

Architecture services, which will be voted on by the City Council at Monday's meeting, are part of a plan to use $168,555 in CDBG funds on the park at 1311 19th Ave. S.E. behind Oak Park Elementary School. It would serve special needs children as well as other kids. The remaining CBDG money would pay for site work, a parking lot and signage.

Stover estimated Everyday Sunshine Park will cost roughly $2 million, with much of the funding coming from private donors.

"The park will be done in phases, starting with the foundation work in phase 1" Stover said.

Jeff Sharp, director of the Everyday Sunshine nonprofit, has been working with the city on the project since 2019 when GraceLife Church donated 30,000 square feet of its property for the inclusive park.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said Sharp is also raising money for the special needs park.

"He had an event recently at the Princess (Theatre Center for the Performing Arts)," Lake said. "And he talked to the Kiwanis Club (of Decatur) and the Rotary Club about his plans for the park."

Lake said the goal is to start the initial phase next summer and have the park ready for play by 2024.

"If we get enough donations, we could move faster on getting the park built," Lake said.

Stover informed the City Council that the city also received three $50,000 grants for three city parks in District 3, Councilman Carlton McMasters' district, at Burningtree, Lynnette Street Southwest and Frances Nungester Elementary School.

The grants, which do not require a city match, will pay for engineering, design and project management.

The city allocated $500,000 to the three parks during the mid-year review of the fiscal 2022 budget.

McMasters said Tuesday that state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, heard about the projects "and thought they were pretty good projects so he offered to help with getting the state grants."

This allows the city to increase the budgets for the park at Fire Station 8 on Indian Hills Road in Burningtree to $200,000, the Frances Nungester park on Tammy Street Southwest to $200,000, and $250,000 for a park on roughly 2.5 acres off Linnet Street Southwest that Decatur City Schools owns, McMasters said.

The city has already begun work by setting up playsets at the Burningtree and Frances Nungester parks, McMasters said.

"We still need to get memorandum of understandings with Decatur City Schools to use the properties at Frances Nungester and Lynnette," McMasters said.

The Burningtree park plans include extending the parking lot of Fire Station 8 so there's parking for the park.

McMasters said the Lynnette Street park's budget is slightly higher because it will need more work. He said they're planning to add a basketball court, a walking trail and a pavilion. The park is a grass field so not much groundwork will be necessary, he said.

The city is also planning a park at Chestnut Grove Elementary School on a 4-acre property that's owned by the city between the north side of the school and Battlement Road Southwest.

State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, helped obtain $180,000 in state funds that the city matched, City Council President Jacob Ladner said.

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Architecture designed the project, which will including landscaping, a playground area and outdoor classroom.

Lake said the paperwork is ready to meet with Charles Booth, of the Purchasing Department, to prepare the bid specifications. The city will then likely seek construction bids in January. or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.