With the reality of budget cuts looming over many municipalities, recreational facilities are an easy target. When it comes down to maintenance on a park or paying the salaries of city employees, the choice seems easy.
However, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson does not see the problem in the same light. He believes there needs to be balance between taking care of the city’s infrastructure and providing for the public’s physical well-being.
His latest endeavor reflecting this policy is taking place at Crawford Park. The mayor wants to improve the baseball field at 351 S. Ann St. in Midtown.
“I am committed to improving our parks to connect communities throughout the city of Mobile,” Stimpson said. “Our parks are an important part of neighborhood identity, and they must be brought back to life after years of neglect. I am grateful to the City Council for dedicating funding resources to this critical project.”
The council approved a contract with Hagan Fence Co. to begin work at Crawford Park. The mayor’s office said the existing baseball field lacks proper protection for spectators and for those using other amenities at the park.
“I’m pleased to support the continued renovation at District 2’s Crawford Park,” Councilman Levon Manzie said. “It’s these types of improvements citizens expect, and I look forward to future improvements at all the rest of our city’s fine parks.”
Work on the baseball field comes after Stimpson challenged everyone to be part of the national initiative to encourage youth to go out and play ball. “We are the home of Hank Aaron, Jake Peavy and so many other baseball greats,” Stimpson said. “We are transforming our baseball fields so we can find Mobile’s next Hall of Famer.”
The city is currently is the process of building a new downtown park to commemorate the birthplace of Mardi Gras, and is working on plans for the Mobile Greenway which will provide biking/running trails along Three Mile Creek. Other recent projects have included the following:
Doyle Park, 1728 Rosedale Road — This 24-acre space next to the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley has been converted into a new recreation facility. Rubberized-surface fields will be accessible to handicapped children and adults. Another area will offer room for soccer and football games, while a softball field is also planned.
Along with four pavilions, a half-mile walking trail is available with fitness equipment along the way. There is an aviation-themed playground that includes a jet fuel truck, an air traffic control tower, mini airplanes and a runway.
“What was once a vacant space is now a centerpiece of pride for generations to come,” Stimpson said.
Councilman C.J. Small said a public-private partnership with Airbus and the nonprofit Friends of Doyle Park helped to drive the project. The next phase will include a splash pad, new restrooms and observation terraces.
Langan Park, 4850 Museum Drive — Renovations of the playground at this massive municipal park included installing five shade structures and two new climbers while also repairing broken equipment.
“Langan Park is an important part of our community’s identity, and this will help bring it back to life,” Stimpson said.
City Council President Gina Gregory said the shade structures to cover playground equipment had been needed for years, but until now the city had no money to install them. The council also recently approved contracts to design a new destination playground at Medal of Honor Park and to purchase security systems for Harmon, Spring Hill and Dotch community centers.
Theodore Park, 7161 Old Military Road — To continue the baseball theme, new fencing and dugouts will go in after officials said the current field lacked benches and proper protection for spectators. Mobile’s Parks and Recreation Department had previously inverted one of the baseball fields to coincide with the park’s master plan. This is just one of almost 100 parks, athletic facilities and museums the department oversees (www.cityofmobile.org/parks).
Herndon Park, 2900 Dauphin St. (also known as Sage Park) Mayor Stimpson sponsored a resolution in 2015 to transfer $1.6 million from the recreation capital improvement budget to pay for the installation of three synthetic turf fields.
“Because the fields in Sage Park are in constant use, it’s nearly impossible for grass to grow and they result is that they are in deplorable condition for much of the year,” said the mayor, who added the move will help to reduce maintenance costs for the city. “If we can improve the experience our children have in our parks, we’ll have more robust recreation programs, we’ll get more children off of the streets and we’ll become a safer and more family-friendly city.”
Fun Mobile — Last year, the mayor introduced the Fun Mobile, a truck full of games and sports equipment that travels from park to park. Items include kick balls, board games, flying discs, horseshoes, softballs, hula-hoops, bases, marbles and golf clubs for putting.
“We want to encourage our children to have fun, be safe and stay active,” the mayor said at its introduction. “The Fun Mobile gives our young people an outlet many of our parks did not previously offer.”
The project also sponsored the Mayor’s Cup, which allowed children ages 6 to 17 to compete in several games and competitions.
Walk and Talk in the Park — The mayor launched this program in 2015. The goal was to raise awareness of the city’s walking trails and to create a more open dialogue with citizens.
“Our parks should draw us together in a tangible and meaningful way,” Stimpson said. “I hope this new series will encourage fitness, connect our communities and facilitate meaningful conversations about the future of Mobile.”
The two newest trails are at Figures Park and Seals Park. Walking paths already existed at Arlington, Crawford, Crestview, Henry Aaron, Johnson, Langan, Laun, Lavretta, Lyons, Medal of Honor, Mitternight, Montlimar, Sage, Seals, Stolts, Tricentennial, Trimmier and Trinity Gardens parks. The next trail is planned for Hope Community Center.