City looks at Calumet Park improvements

Jennifer Shrader Staff writer

September 25, 2013

LaGrange City Council approved spending about $100,000 to make improvements to Calumet Park, off Union and Hines Streets, that was the scene of a shooting earlier this summer.

Neighborhood volunteers already had approached the city about upgrading the facilities before the incident.

“We had made this a priority,” said Robert Tucker, who lives in the east side neighborhood and helped spearhead the project. “We do appreciate Mr. (Tom) Hall. He has been phenomenal.”

Hall, LaGrange City Manager, outlined the plans to council Tuesday morning before the expense was approved. He said if the plans work at Calumet Park, improvements could be replicated in other city parks.

The proposal calls for the old baseball field at the park to be turned into a walking trail and multipurpose green. The city also will rehab playground equipment, the picnic area and gazebo and the basketball court, and and seating and shaded areas.

“Things had fallen into disrepair,” Hall said. “We want to create a nice, usable space.”

When Troup County Parks and Recreation took over all parks in the county and consolidated many activities at new facilities, small neighborhood parks like Calumet were “left to languish,” Mayor Jeff Lukken said.

The centerpiece of the improvements, however, will be a splash pad and fountain area, large enough to accommodate about 40 children.

The project can be paid for with special-purpose, local-option sales tax money that had been set aside for neighborhood park revitalization. The city also has money from the sale of Cross Creek Apartments that must specifically be used for community projects such as this, Hall said.

“We will start work on it this winter and open it this summer and if this works out, it will be a model for other areas of the city,” Hall said.

Councilman Willie Edmondson said he was thrilled to see the plans.

“This brings a community up,” he said. “The neighborhood develops a sense of responsibility to keep the riff-raff out.”

The Rev. Michael Roland said the community wants to start a neighborhood watch program and is looking for block captains. Hall said the city also will post park hours, which will discourage loitering at times the park isn’t in use.

“The best is yet to come,” Roland said.

Council also agreed to spend about $20,000 to hire a traffic engineer to look at downtown traffic patterns. The request originated from the LaGrange Downtown Development Authority, whose board is worried that the opening of Boyd Park Amphitheater will create traffic issues downtown.

“That is a strange traffic pattern,” in front of Boyd Park, Hall said, agreeing with the DDA that the issue should be addressed while the amphitheater still is in the construction phase.

Currently, all vehicles leaving Boyd Park can only turn right onto Smith Street and can’t turn left to go to Morgan Street.

“This will cause a bottleneck at the exit and all cars wanting to get to Morgan Street will back up onto Church until they can cross over Ridley to Morgan,” said Bobby Carmichael, DDA executive director, in an email to Hall earlier this month. “This intersection needs some evaluation before the amphitheater opens.”

Carmichael said that between the amphitheater and the proposed downtown hotel in the former Mansour’s building, he believes it is time to study downtown traffic flow. The results of the study could indicate whether the city should switch Main and Bull streets back to two-way streets.

Lukken said the study would determine what the city needs to do long-term.