Future Of Park System Bright

Times West Virginian

by Alexis McDaniel

BRIDGEPORT (Tuesday, August  25, 2001)

An indoor recreation center, an aquatic play area at the city pool, a trail system that connects all neighborhoods, a new playground near the library and a miniature golf course sound like big ideas, but these are just a few of the proposals being discussed at the Bridgeport Parks and Recreation Department.

The parks department hosted an informational meeting for the members of Leadership Bridgeport last week. Leadership Bridgeport consists of a group of residents who attend one session a month for eight months to learn about the City of Bridgeport.

Parks Director Don Burton, Deputy Director Joe Shuttleworth and Administrative Assistant Linda Miller discussed the many duties of the department: facilities, programming, maintenance and future development. The Bridgeport Parks and Recreation Department has several facilities to manage. They are the Benedum Civic Center, Bridgeport City Park, Deegan and Hinkle Lakes, Compton Park, Briarwood Park and the cemetery.

"A lot of people think the parks department is about cutting grass, cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash," Burton said. "Some people don’t even know the city park exists."

A highlight of the program involved future projects, which are not yet funded, but which have been under consideration and may come to fruition in coming years. They include:

  • An indoor recreation center. The center was proposed by residents who have formed a committee to research the idea. They suggested the center include items such as an indoor swimming pool, a track, weight room, sauna, courts and much more. Burton said a questionnaire was mailed with water bills to residents to determine the interest in the community, since public funding would likely be needed for the center. An indoor facility would double or triple the number of programs the parks department offers now, Shuttleworth added.
  • An aquatic play area may be just a couple of years away for the city pool, Burton said. The play area would be installed next to the city pool where the volleyball court is located. A play area would feature a zero-entrance pool, with low water depth for babies and toddlers. It would have plastic water fountains and other toys for children. Burton said it’s an investment of around $175,000.
  • A city-wide trail system. The council has directed the parks department to investigate ways to link the city with a trail system. Currently, the city does have grant money to improve existing trails at the city park. A $105,000 grant was awarded to pave the trail and replace the walking bridge (near The Blue Crab restaurant). Also, the nearly mile-long gravel trail that circles the ball fields will be paved soon. While the Track to the Future was also recently paved, the parks department said the advantage of the city park trail is wheels (strollers, bikes, roller blades) are allowed on the surface. A new trail at Compton Park is also in the works.
  • New parks. The city has developed Phase I of the city park, behind the schools on Johnson Avenue, and has two other phases. The city has a total of 32 acres and 15 have been developed. Additional courts are proposed, but access is an issue. The undeveloped land would require a bridge to allow users to get to it. That would be an expensive project, at least $150,000. Meanwhile, while there is a park in most of the neighborhoods in Bridgeport, the parks department said that the residential area behind the library and WesBanco would be well-served by another playground.
  • A miniature golf course. The parks department would like to develop a miniature golf course near the Deegan and Hinkle Lakes.

City residents help support parks and recreation programs by approving the special levy. Half of that tax money pays for park programs.

The programs at the civic center are provided by contracted residents, who share the profit of classes 60-40 percent. Classes range from aerobics, karate, music, art and painting, ballroom dancing, writing, yoga, youth art, tots play, crafty kids, children’s theater, magic, photography, kinderfit.

Special events are presented throughout the year, such as an Easter egg hunt, volleyball camp, basketball league, Halloween and Christmas parties.