A community center, a dog park and a new baseball field for children with special needs are among the many improvements Walker officials envision for Sidney Hutchinson Park in the coming months.
The ground at the southeast corner of the park on Corbin Avenue is already being prepared for the community center.
Capable of sustaining 160-mph winds, the building will serve as a rally point and safe house for responders during emergencies such as hurricanes. The rest of the time, it will be used as a community center for sports and other programs, Mayor Rick Ramsey said.
“It will be about the size of one and a half gymnasiums,” Ramsey said, “so there will be plenty of room.”
The $4 million project is a collaborative effort between the city and the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The city’s $1 million portion of the costs was dedicated in this year’s budget, Ramsey said.
On the northeast corner of the park, a sign announces the future site of Challenger’s Field, a baseball diamond for children with mental and physical disabilities.
The city’s parks and recreation department has had a Challenger Division for three years, Ramsey said. The new field will be designed to further the city’s goal of serving every community member.
Ramsey estimates the project will cost up to $400,000, although the city’s share could be only half that because of a partnership with the Cal Ripken Foundation, he said.
The city already has gathered $100,000 in donations and pledges for the project, thanks in part to Ramsey and other members of his class in the parish chamber’s Leadership Livingston program last year. Ramsey’s group made Challenger’s Field its focus and worked hard to raise awareness about the need for such a facility.
A proposed dog park for Sidney Hutchinson Park may also end up owing its creation to a Leadership Livingston project group. Walker City Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse, a member of the current leadership class, said he hopes his group will make the dog park their pet project.
“That’s my pitch. That’s what I want,” Girlinghouse said. “But we’re also looking to include some other groups (outside the leadership class) as partners on it and get a team effort going. It’s going to be a beautiful addition to the park, if it comes about.”
Ramsey said the dog park will probably cost about $80,000 to $100,000.
“With the land being donated and the utilities provided by the city, it’s mainly just going to be ground preparation, fencing and then amenities for the dogs,” Ramsey said.
City officials are looking to put the dog park between the pond and Corbin Avenue, he said.
The third phase of the walking trail — bringing the path full-circle to complete the loop around the park — is scheduled to begin early next year, Ramsey said. Officials hope to add exercise and fitness stations along the trail during a future phase, likely to be funded through local donations, he said.
The pond is receiving improvements as well. A fishing pier was completed last week, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will stock the pond with bluegill in October, followed by bass and catfish in the early spring, Ramsey said.
The mayor said plans are in the works to hold a fishing tournament around July 4, and the city may allocate money in next year’s budget to extend the new pier.
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