COLUMBIA — On Monday night, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department held an informal meeting regarding future improvements to Douglass Park.
Members of the department worked with community leaders to iron out priorities for several additions and renovations to the park. There was a feeling of camaraderie at the meeting, as the few attendees present were familiar with the department members because they were involved with the plan’s formation.
Mike Griggs, manager of park services, and Mike Snyder, senior park planner, explained their tentative plan to the community leaders and then asked for feedback in order to bring a prioritized plan to the City Council.
Those present included: Cameron Cross, recreation supervisor; Bill Thomson, recreation specialist and vice president of the Douglass Neighborhood Association; John Kelly, head of baseball at the Douglass Athletics Association; and police Officer Mike Hayes, the area neighborhood watch adviser.
The department plans to adding water spraygrounds attached to the Douglass Family Aquatic Center, similar to the spraygrounds found at Stephens Lake Park and Flatbranch Park. The Douglass spraygrounds would be connected to the pool, but would be accessible at hours that the pool is not, Snyder said.
"That’s the beauty of a sprayground," he said. "Since it has no standing water, there is no need for a lifeguard."
The four attendees were happy with the plans for the spraygrounds area but had suggestions regarding improvements planned for the baseball/softball field.
The department suggested improving the field by “grading” it to correct the slope, fixing the concrete behind the backstop, adding a backfield fence, painting the dugouts, adding a new scoreboard and pouring a concrete floor for the batting cages.
The leaders said a new scoreboard was less important than grading the field. Instead of a backfield fence, Cross suggested extending the sideline fences would be more important. "We don’t want people riding bikes across the field," he said.
Cross said the backfield fence would interfere with other sports that share the field with the baseball league. Griggs suggested a portable fence as another option.
The department also discussed plans of expanding an already existing storage shed and bathroom, but the attendees suggested it should be a lower priority than grading the field.
Kelly said the shed currently served its purpose and doesn't need much work. “If I had to give something up, it would be working on that,” he said.
The department also plans to widen pre-existing concrete paths so maintenance and organizers’ vehicles can easily access the park.
Attendees stressed that lights should be added and trees be trimmed up for security reasons.
According to Griggs, the improvement project has a budget of $255,000. The budget includes $125,000 in Community Development Block Grants and the rest comes from the Parks Sales Tax of 2005.
With the public’s input, the Parks and Recreation Department will calculate cost estimates and create a final plan to submit to the City Council on Dec. 15, Griggs said. Then on Jan. 5, the council will hold its own public hearing, and will vote on the plan.
“We try to do a good job and have a public process to take care of the public’s concerns," Snyder said. "That’s why we are holding this meeting.”