Park plans at play

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

VIDALIA — Construction on the municipal complex is under way and bids are being accepted for the new recreation complex, but Vidalia leaders aren’t slowing down yet.

The city is applying for grants for the city park that will be located behind and beside the municipal complex.

The plan for the park was first announced in June, and plans for a five-phase, five-year plan to build the park have been drawn, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

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Copeland said the park will feature basketball courts, tennis courts, bocce ball courts, playgrounds, a pond, a walking trail and disc golf.

“We wanted to try and cover everything we could as far as activities go,” he said. “This way we have something for everyone, not just kids.”

Grant coordinator Teresa Dennis said the city is applying for a matching grant from the Department of Interior in the amount of $250,000.

Vidalia would have to pay $250,000 to match Department of Interior funds.

Dennis said the $500,000 is for the first of five phases of the park project that will all cost the same, bringing the approximate cost of the new park to $2.5 million.

“The first phase will focus on the basketball courts,” she said. “We also have a lot of preparation with underground utilities and grading that will be taken care of in the first phase. Grading and leveling is the most important part of phase one.”

Dennis said the application deadline for the grant is April 1 and the city hopes to hear word on whether or not they receive the grant by July.

“We do not know when construction could begin,” she said. “That will be up the engineer and when he would advise us to begin.”

Once construction of the first phase begins, Dennis said it should take approximately 10 months to complete.

“With each phase we are looking at around a 12 month turnaround once the grant is approved,” she said.

Dennis said the city’s plan for the additional four phases of the project is to try and get a grant through the Department of Interior each year to begin work on the next phase.

“We have the master plan for the park drawn up, and we are trying to get that approved by the Department of Interior,” she said.

Once the Department of Interior approves the master plan, Dennis said receiving the grant each year will be a lot easier.

Dennis said since the city has a master plan for the park, it does not currently have a specific plan for the next four phases.

“We are going to have to make the plans as we get the funding,” she said. “Nothing is set in stone and there will be decisions by the mayor, aldermen and community on what the park needs.”

Dennis said completion of the park is estimated for five to seven years.

Copeland said the park will be a huge asset to the city once it is complete.

“I cannot wait to see the whole thing completed,” he said. “I know it is going to be something everyone will enjoy.”

Copeland said the park’s location next to the municipal complex will also bring added benefits.

“They are going to be located right next to the fire and police departments, so safety will always be right there,” he said.

Dennis said the park will also be a great addition to aesthetics in Vidalia.

“This is going to be a great complex that will be well landscaped and maintained,” she said. “It will be such a beautiful focal point for people who are coming into the city from the north.”