Cullman kicks off Nesmith Park renovation project

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(Left to right) Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism Director of Operations Kyle Clark, Assistant Athletic Director Ashley Dye, Cullman City Councilman Andy Page, Executive Director Zac Wood, Cullman City Councilman David Moss, Cullman City Councilman Clint Hollingsworth, Cullman City Council President Jenny Folsom, Mayor Woody Jacobs and Cullman City Councilman Johnny Cook show off the planned renovation of Nesmith Park Thursday morning. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Heavy equipment has begun appearing at Nesmith Park near West Elementary School, and the City of Cullman wants people to know why. Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism (CPRST), Mayor Woody Jacobs and the Cullman City Council on Thursday morning gathered at the park  to display a design concept for renovations about to begin.

The City of Cullman received a 50/50 matching grant to renovate the southwest side facility with improvements including a splash pad, new playground, basketball and pickleball (paddleball) courts, multi-use field and restrooms. Beyond the plan presented, Jacobs said that long-term plans allowed for the development of additional athletic fields at the park.

New regulation baseball field

The baseball field will be a regulation high school facility with a 350-foot center field wall. Initial plans are for use as a practice field, but Jacobs said that long-term plans could include tournaments, especially with the planned concession/restroom facility at the site.

When the City began looking into renovations at the park, CPRST’s then Executive Director Nathan Anderson told The Tribune that Cullman High School baseball coach Brent Patterson had talked to him about the need for more practice and game space, especially for the school’s junior varsity team. 

“As we were thinking about how we could use this land, we started playing around with the layout, and it turns that out we could get a field around the same exact size that the high school currently has, on this property,” said Anderson. “So that plays with the 350-foot distance from home plate to center field, which is perfect for their needs. This will be a practice site and a game site for the high school, as well as continuing to meet the needs that we have with travel ball that we bring to the area.”

Water feature to return in different form

The mayor told the media that the park’s swimming pool had become too expensive to maintain, and would be replaced by the splash pad as the park’s water feature. The pool will be replaced, but the building there will be renovated for use as the concession stand and restroom building for the ball field and park.

Said Jacobs, “That had a Land and Water Grant back in the day, so you have to keep something or swap something (as a water feature). We’ve been planning on this and thinking on this, and in the process we’ve got another Land and Water Grant . . . We got a $400,000 grant that requires a $400,000 match. This design is probably going to cost a little bit more than that. We haven’t bid it yet, but it’s fixing to go out to bid. But part of the process is the City’s going to be doing the demo and getting things ready, so we were starting that process. Once you start doing something like that, it becomes- everybody wants to know what’s going on.”

Land and Water Grants

The State of Alabama provided half of the funding with grants made by Gov. Kay Ivey last year through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“Alabama’s parks, playgrounds and trails promote healthier lives and happier people,” Ivey said at the time of the grant. “These projects will encourage people to enjoy Alabama’s outdoors, and they will help create memories that will last a lifetime. I commend local leaders for understanding that parks and playgrounds contribute so much to a community’s health and wellbeing.”

The LWCF program was created by Congress in 1965 to assist states with the development and preservation of outdoor recreational facilities. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) manages the program in Alabama. Under the LWCF program, recipients are required to equally match the amount of the award with cash or in-kind commitments.

Said Jacobs, “We’re excited about it, parks and rec’s excited about it, because of more facilities. It’s by the school so they’ll be, you know, they can be sharing.”

CPRST Executive Director Zac Wood called the renovation “A great addition to this area of town, this neighborhood.”

The mayor noted, “The other parks that we’ve done, we’ve noticed, you know, as you do those, housing starts getting upgraded. You know, housing values go up and people are buying and doing fixer-uppers. Even around Art Park, we’re starting to see that, and so, down Ingle Park and the Connected Park.

“So, again, we’re just excited to be here today and be able to let the community know what’s going on.”

Jacobs estimated that the park renovation will be completed in the spring or summer of 2021.

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On the concept rendering: 1-baseball practice field, 2-refurbished community garden, 3-renovated restroom/concessions building, 4-pickleball courts, 5-splash pad, 6-playground, 7-basketball court, 8-resurfaced parking lot, 9-multi-purpose field (Image courtesy of CPRST)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com