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Vidalia announces addition to recreation plans

VIDALIA — The future Recreation District No. 3 complex will have a Vidalia city park facility to complement it.

Preliminary plans for a Vidalia city park adjacent to the future Recreation District No. 3 complex were shown at the recreation district’s monthly board meeting Wednesday.

The new park will be built in three phases, and will include small ballparks, a walking trail, a spray park and playground, picnic tables, a bocce ball court and eventually a community center, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

The 32-acre city park, which will be located behind and beside the new Vidalia City Municipal Complex, will back up against the recreation district’s new complex and will serve as a complement to it, Recreation District President Marc Archer said.

While the recreation district recently had a 40-year 3.89-mil tax renewal passed to fund their complex, Copeland said Vidalia will be paying for the new park through other means.

“We are paying for it, but we will be doing so through private grants and foundations,” he said.

Other things being considered include converting the bed of the former railroad tracks in Vidalia into a bicycle trail that will lead to the complex, Copeland said.

The proposed city park will only serve to enhance the recreation district’s plans, Archer said.

“It allows us to do other things with our complex without any further expense to the (recreation) board,” he said.

As for the recreation district’s plans, now that the funding has been secured through the tax renewal, Archer said the district has to come up with a wish list of what they want done at the complex so they can figure out what it will ultimately cost.

Those things might include netting rather than fencing above home plate on ball fields, sunken dugouts for the ball fields or the exact number of tennis courts the complex will have.

The wish list might also include having concession stands in the quads between the ball fields and bathrooms near the soccer fields and basketball courts, Archer said.

The recreation district’s engineer for the project, Bryant Hammett, said he would suggest moving forward with the plans that were presented at the public hearings for the tax renewal, and the district could go from there.

“We will rearrange and minimize the space we are going to use so that we will have the opportunity for expansion in the future,” Hammett said. “You never know what is going to be happening, what is going to be popular in six to eight to 10 years.”

Hammett will take the wish list to a recreation expert he will bring in for the project, and the two will work to draw up more detailed plans to show the board, Archer said.

Meetings with high school coaches about what is needed for baseball and softball fields will also be scheduled, he said.

“We need to get the basics so we can get the preliminary architectural reports, get the cost estimate, bid it out and build it,” Archer said. “I am ready to get this thing rolling. This is going to be the premier facility in the state, probably in a three-state area.”

Work on the district complex could begin as early as next June, Hammett said.

“I am thinking that we can break ground this time next year and have it ready for the 2012 season,” he said. “I see no impediment to that except changes, but that is why we want to get it honed down and get some specifics.”

The recreation district complex will be built on 50 acres that were purchased as part of an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Vidalia and the recreation district.

The city purchased 30 of the acres and the district bought 20, and the city leased the land to the district.

The land was purchased for $17,000 an acre.

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