WALKER — City officials said Challenger Field, the city’s adaptive ballpark for people with disabilities, is ready for its official dedication ceremony, set for 5 p.m. Thursday, May 24.
Chief of Operations Jamie Etheridge said during the May 14 City Council meeting that work was recently finished on the landscaping, sidewalks and other facets of the field located at Sydney Hutchinson Park, the city’s main recreation venue.
“This has been a long time coming, and we are looking forward to the dedication of Challenger Field,” Etheridge said. He added that following dedication remarks by local and parish officials, hot dogs and beverages will be served and an inaugural baseball game will be played.
Challenger Field, one of the first such parks to be built in Louisiana, is smaller than a regulation baseball field, city officials said. The facility is designed to suit the special needs of players and includes special bases, padded fences and is covered with special turf. The field was built with a combination of grants, city funds and donations from area civic groups and individuals.
Etheridge said the total cost of the field was about $300,000.
The push to build Challenger Field began during the administration of former Mayor Rick Ramsey. Ramsey spearheaded fundraising efforts and the obtaining of grants and other funds to build the park. Support for the project also came from the Cal Ripkin Sr. Foundation, which has been active in building adaptive ball fields throughout the nation.
At the same meeting, the council learned that construction of the Travis Street Bridge will be put off until the third quarter of 2019. Etheridge said a problem with obtaining rights of way resulted in the city’s having to remove the bridge from the Department of Transportation and Development's priority list for 2018.
Etheridge said that should some other project on the DOTD list get “pulled,” then maybe Walker could move up the list and obtain the funds soon that 2019.
On a different note dealing with infrastructure, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that authorizes the city to seek a grant through the Statewide Flood Control Program that could address flood issues in the Pendarvis Road area near a drainage system known as Taylor Bayou. Etheridge said during the August 2016 flood, that area had problems with high water.
He said the funds would be used to improve the drainage so more water can pass through the system and under Interstate 12. Stream widening and additional culverts would be used to help alleviate flooding.
Etheridge, who did not put a dollar amount on the grant request, said the city should learn in several months whether or not the grant has been approved.
The City Council voted unanimously at the same meeting to move the date and time that the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meets from the second Monday of every month at 5 p.m. to the third Monday of every month at 6 p.m. The commission has been meeting at 5 p.m. just before the monthly council meeting, and Mayor Jimmy Watson explained that because of its increasing workload, the commission has not had enough time to hear all requests and finish its business before the City Council meeting. He said the move to the third Monday of the month at a later hour will give those conducting business with the commission more time.