FOLEY — Children have played at the Foley Kids Park for more than 20 years, but the time has come to replace the aging wooden facility, David Thompson, city leisure services director, said.The …
FOLEY — Children have played at the Foley Kids Park for more than 20 years, but the time has come to replace the aging wooden facility, David Thompson, city leisure services director, said.
The park was built in 2001 with donations and labor from hundreds of community members. Thompson said his mother, Sarah Thompson, was one of the residents who led the effort to build the park, so the site holds special memories for him.
"It's pretty near and dear to me," Thompson said. "Mom was a teacher in school, and it came out of a social studies project. And you know, she basically pushed for the community build and went out and grabbed Councilman (Charles) Ebert and others to help chair the committee and did the fundraising."
The park, however, was designed to last about 15 years. The site has been in the Gulf Coast weather for two decades.
"It's any kind of wood structure even when it's the composite wood that lasts a little longer, it still has a shelf life and that's, unfortunately, where we are," Thompson said. "We've replaced a lot of things. We continue to replace it, but it's just gotten to the point where we're mixing and matching, and we need to start fresh."
Thompson said several Kids Parks in Baldwin County are almost as old as Foley's and some have either been replaced or are aging.
"We were ahead of everyone," Thompson said. "I know Orange Beach just had to replace theirs. Gulf Shores is still in the process of trying to figure out what they're going to do with theirs. It's kind of gone back and forth a couple times. They're kind of in the same boat."
The new Foley park will be designed to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will be built for children with disabilities as well as other kids, Thompson said.
"The main thing that we're focused on is obviously having a Kids Park for our community, but we would also like to have more inclusivity," Thompson said. "There is a project that's going on in Summerdale to help address ADA and special needs. But we also feel like we've got a pretty large constituency that would benefit from that as well. So, we're looking at providing a Kids Park that would include all of the special needs as well. So, we're obviously upgrading the Kids Park itself, but we're going to make sure that it's not like a separate playground that is embedded and included with what we're trying to do."
The new park will cost more than $1 million with almost half that money coming from grants.
"We have budgeted $700,000 and we're expecting $500,000 in grants so $1.2 million is the overall price tag. where that's the budget we're working with it," Thompson said. "We may come in a little less than that. But $1.2 million would obviously be the cap."
City officials are studying two designs for the park and residents can vote on which design they prefer, Thompsons said.
"It should be on our social media website here," Thompson said. "I wanted the community to vote on it. You figure out which one they liked the most. One of them is more nature themed. The other one is a little more to the roots of Foley with a boat, a tractor, a train. So, we're trying to put a little bit of historical sense of place from Foley in it as well."
The two designs and survey are available at the city website, foleyrecreation.com/planning.
Thompson said city officials hope to have a new design selected and the new park built by spring.
"The goal really is to do most of the work in the offseason. You know, people are still utilizing the park today and because we're planning to go back over the same footprint," Thompsons said. We're definitely open to have that back up and running by spring break."
Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the park in the shaded location has been a popular attraction for Foley and the new facility should have many of the same charms as the current site.
"The biggest complaint we get, most of the time in our parks is we need more shade because it's hot around here more often than it's cold. So, it will be built basically on the same footprint," Hellmich said. "There may be a couple of shade structures that we may add to whatever design is accepted so we'll have plenty of shade structures with it. A lot of times families go out there and have a little picnic while the kids are playing."