COLUMBIA – Each summer, about 200 children ages 5 to 10 practice the fundamentals and play baseball games for a league organized by the city and the Douglass Athletic Association. They play at Douglass Park, and the ball field there is in line for significant improvements.
“Anything that will make their experiences safer and more enjoyable is a good idea,” Camren Cross, a recreation supervisor for the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation.
In addition to resurfacing the field, the city has proposedseveral other improvements to the baseball diamond along with the pool area.
The measures, which the City Council is expected to vote on Jan. 20, calls for the extension of fences along the foul lines, a concrete surface for the batting cage, widened walkways and a permanent patio for large gatherings.
In addition, the wading area at Douglass Pool will be replaced with a “sprayground” or playground where timed fountains squirt water.
“We are committed to high-quality parks throughout the city,” Paul Sturtz, First Ward councilman, said. He expects approval of the proposal after the final public hearing Tuesday.
The total cost for both projects is estimated at $255,000 with $200,000 proposed for improvements to the pool and the remainder going toward renovation of the baseball field.
Nearly half the cost will be covered by a federal Community Development Block Grant. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the remaining $130,000 has been approved by voters through their support of the city Park Sales Tax and that the money has been allocated since October.
While expanding the pool would require additional funds for lifeguards and maintenance, Hood said, the sprayground does not require additional funds for lifeguards and minimal maintenance. Motion sensors will turn on the fountains only when people are present, saving electricity, Hood said.
The ball field project also includes additional lighting, tree-trimming and conduits for video cameras designed to improve security at the park. "Funding for these items depends on how much the grading and fill soil of the baseball field will cost," Hood wrote in a memo to the City Council.
“From our perspective, we believe the best way to discourage negative activity is to encourage positive activity,” Hood said.
Once the proposals have been approved, the city must take bids from contractors. The ball field is expected to be completed by May 1. Construction of the sprayground is not expected to begin until the end of the 2009 swimming season, with the new feature to be available in the spring of 2010.