On the heels of adopting a master plan for Royal Lane Park earlier this year, the City of Clinton is laying the groundwork to fund a portion of the plan’s estimated $9 million overhaul.
In the months since the City Council approved the master plan in July, the Recreation Department, with city managerial staff and design consultants Withers & Ravenel, has worked to narrow the scope of some renovations at Royal Lane Park to prepare an application for a Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant.
PARTF grants can provide up to $500,000 in funding as part of a 50/50 match.
Upon the recommendation of city manager Shawn Purvis, the Council on Tuesday unanimously approved applying for $864,000, of which half — $432,000 — would be a local obligation. The funding would be spread over three years, at $144,000 annually, and other funding sources, including federal money and local corporate and private donations, could be utilized to pay the city portion.
After a brief presentation by Clinton Recreation director Jonathan Allen and some discussion among the board, the Council unanimously approved applying for the grant, a step required to submit an application. The approval did not come without apprehension and some concerns shared by Council, notably to the elements included in Royal Lane Park Phase 1A.
Among those elements, Allen said two basketball courts would be overhauled and a fence placed around them; four smaller U10 tennis courts would be configured; upgrades would be made to the playground area; and construction would begin on a 2-mile walking trail that would encircle the park.
“The tennis courts and the basketball courts are in most need of repair right now,” said Allen. “With the PARTF grant, what they do look at is new facilities — you get more points for that. That was another reason for the U10 tennis courts. That’s a new element … that allows us to offer a program that is currently not being (provided). (The phase) also increases the amount of paved trail areas, which was a big request in our community survey.”
Phase 1A elements would also bring a new look to the entrance of the park, including signage.
“We want that welcoming feel in our community and that’s one way to do it — with that sign welcoming them into the park,” Allen said. “We want to welcome them into the neighborhood and the community.”
Councilman Steve Stefanovich asked whether the Council was locked in to those particular design elements upon approval, or if it could be adjusted. He said there have been discussions in the community about the importance of some aspects of the revitalization over others. Allen said, once the grant application is submitted, the city would be locked in to that plan.
Purvis said the staff, with Withers & Ravenel, tried to narrow the focus down to the cost-feasible elements that would be looked upon favorably by PARTF grantors as new elements.
“The other large need out there is multipurpose space for football and soccer,” said Purvis. “That would be the next thing we would start looking at. The cost for that is greater than this cost and is technically no new elements. We gauged that in terms of what the viability of (getting) the grant would be. There are other points of the park that are just as much of a need, but for the purposes of this grant, the cost and what we could take on … we weren’t quite sure the city could take that on at this point.”
Under the master plan, there would be a wagon-wheel baseball field design, with four 225-foot baseball fields located close to each other, at the front of the park, with upgraded tennis courts adjacent to them and large parking areas around both. Pierce Street would extend into a roundabout, with an art design at its focal point, and continuing onto the Bellamy Center, which would incorporate an older adult recreation area, including horseshoes, shuffleboard and a fitness loop.
A fully revamped soccer complex would reconfigure the existing fields into five regulation 200 foot by 360 foot soccer fields and a smaller multi-use field. The soccer center would be moved and centered among the fields, where there will also be a family picnic plaza. The existing football multi-purpose field, with the track surrounding it, would stay intact. Across from the Bellamy Center would be two larger baseball/softball fields, at 300 feet.
More parking would be sandwiched between those fields and a perimeter road would extend around the ball fields and the soccer complex and back around to Royal Lane, where basketball courts, the pool and additional playground and picnic areas will be located. A large area for disc golf, would be located in close proximity to the existing amphitheater and a new picnic pavilion
Purvis said it was a matter of leveraging money and having the best possible shot at obtaining a grant that could offset needed funds to start implement a massive plan. Other phases would be a much larger slice of the pie. The wagon wheel would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million and the soccer field revamp would be about the same.
“This still obligates us for $432,000 and I’m wondering is this the very best use of our $432,000?” Stefanovich said. “Or can it be used in another area here, maybe without any grant money, but can we get a bigger bang for our buck?”
Purvis said that may be the case, reminding the Council it could pull out of the PARTF process at any given point and not accept the grant if awarded.
“But we are locked in to these elements (if we receive it),” said Stefanovich.
“If we get it and if we choose to move forward,” Mayor Lew Starling clarified.
Purvis noted as much, saying the grant would not be awarded if elements were to be changed from the application.
“I think we still have the right, if they notify us we’re getting it, to rehash this discussion,” said Starling.
Councilman Neal Strickland expressed his concern that the Phase 1A proposal also did not include the wagon wheel design element for the ballfields.
“I want the most for our money,” said Strickland. “I’m looking at what the biggest bang we have out at Royal Lane and it’s baseball, softball and soccer. And neither one of them are being (proposed).”
Stefanovich echoed that.
“If we’re open to changing all this, then I can go with this,” said Stefanovich. “But if we’re locked in to saying that if we get the grant we’re going to spend that $432,000 on that little corner, I have an issue with that.”
Purvis said that, while some of the larger, more notable elements were left off the initial phase for possible implementation, it was not because they were unimportant. They merely did not fit with the PARTF grant application, which must be made in January.
Overall, the plan is still to consolidate facilities, create open space, improve traffic circulation, provide more efficient parking and implement walking trails, signature art elements and upgraded facilities — but it is a large-scale project, one that cannot be funded all at once.
“There’s no way that we’d be able to do everything all at once,” Purvis has said. “This is the long-range plan for Royal Lane. It’s going to take time.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.