Thursday, April 10, 2008

Una Park improvements continue; residents discuss other uses

By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD • Staff Writer • April 8, 2008 UNA — In a heated meeting about the future of Una Park, residents discussed the facility's past and present and the progress that's been made there since Metro acquired it a year-and-a-half ago. Formerly the Una Recreation Center, the property was donated to the city in 2006 by the board that oversaw the park previously. The board decided to donate the park after the cost of keeping it up became too high. Anticipating the donation, Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite acquired $1.15 million in funding to go toward improvements at the park. A presentation of the Una Park Master Plan was given during the meeting to inform residents about what has been done and what remains to be done to improve the park. Weather permitting, the park is scheduled for completion this fall. Among the proposed improvements are upgrades to the park's athletic fields. The park will have two football fields; one 11- and 12-year-old baseball field; one Pee Wee T-Ball field; and two multipurpose fields. A children's playground has also been added, and plans are to have picnic pavilions, parking spaces, a walking trail and a skate park. New fencing, lighting and portable restrooms will also be added. Future plans include permanent restrooms. Appearance helps feeling of safety Topics discussed at the meeting ranged from graffiti to sanitary conditions to future uses of the park. "We're looking at some graffiti-proof paint," said Marcus Hardison, project manager with Metro Parks. Resident Richard Curran asked whether the park would be able to attract the baseball community with all the changes that have taken place in recent years. Although baseball has been a significant part of the park's past, the park is primarily used for football at the present. In response to Curran's question, resident Deanna Rupa said that, previously, a major concern was that the park had become run down, making it appear unsafe. "You feel like that's an indication of how safe or unsafe it is," she said, adding appearance is important. Now that Metro has made some improvements and cleaned it up, the baseball community might be inclined to return, she said. "Now that it is more beautiful, I wouldn't mind going there and planting flowers," she added. "My kids love it now. They feel like it's a safe place to be." Rupa, who lives in the Priest Lake area, said she feels as if it has brought "Percy Warner Park" to their neck of the woods. Residents make other suggestions Area resident Regina Morrow said she was concerned about the age gap between Pee Wee T-Ball and 11- and 12-year-old baseball. She said many parents like to stay at a single location the entire time their children are involved in youth baseball. Hardison said it is an unfortunate situation, but space there prevents having baseball fields to serve all age groups. He said this is also the case at some other Metro parks. Steve Burris said he was disturbed to see signs saying that no cycling was allowed. He feels the park is too heavily focused on football. Curran agreed, asking why ideas brought up a couple of years ago — such as an amphitheater, horseshoes and basketball and volleyball courts — have not been incorporated into the plan. He said he wonders whether the community's interests are truly being represented in the plan. Curran also asked whether giving football precedence was a condition of donating the land. Wilhoite, who was there to help lead the meeting, said the board agreed to donate the property with the condition that the Una Bears youth football teams continue to have access to the park's fields. She said the city is trying its best to work out a plan that pleases everyone. "It's good for us to move forward," she said.

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