Money for recreation

Shrinking state grant funds are forcing Marietta officials to choose between two projects that would benefit recreational activities in the city’s Lookout and Buckeye parks.

The Marietta Area Community Tennis Association (MACTA) is asking the city for court surface repairs at the Lookout Park tennis courts, and the Marietta City Softball Association says lights at the Buckeye Park ball fields need to be raised because they present a safety hazard for players.

And in order to qualify for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Nature Works Grant both areas would also require some sidewalk upgrades to help meet Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.

“Both are really worthwhile projects, but there are budget constraints so we can only do one at this time,” said Marietta development director Andy Coleman.

He said the state has capped the amount of Nature Works grant funding at $31,000 for all of Washington County this year. The local match of $7,750 for the $31,000 can be provided through in-kind services.

“We hope to apply for the lion’s share, but other communities in the county could also apply for that money and we would receive less,” Coleman explained.

Steve Ellis, president of MACTA, said the four Lookout Park tennis courts are in dire need of repairs.

“We have tried to keep cracks in the courts patched ourselves by filling them with an expansion material, but that’s not working,” he said. “There is now a fibrous material available that goes over the crack and then a patch applied over that.”

Ellis said drainage is also an issue at the courts and there is some subsidence due to water running underneath the court surface.

He said there are other needs at the courts, too, including fence repairs and lighting, but the greatest need is repair of the courts surface.

Coleman said the courts also need access for people with disabilities, which could require an estimated $12,672 for concrete sidewalks, in addition to an estimated $13,280 to resurface the courts.

He said a 36 by 26-foot concrete pad would also have to be poured to provide ADA-compliant parking off of Fairview Lane for access to the courts.

MACTA member Barb Moberg said the tennis courts get a lot of daily use, not only by the association and tennis leagues, but by other members of the community. She said the courts need to be maintained, but the city has no budget dedicated to take care of the facilities.

“The city doesn’t have a maintenance budget for the courts, and that’s something that should be addressed, too,” she said.

Marietta City Softball Association president Jim Farley said the softball fields at Buckeye Park are also in need of improvements.

“We run between 100 and 110 teams through the Marietta Softball Association every year,” he said. “There are eight or nine different leagues that make use of ball fields at both Buckeye Park and Indian Acres Park.”

But he said the lights at the two Buckeye Park fields are mounted too low, and balls are often hit higher than the lights, which takes them out of the players’ sight.

“That’s a safety concern, because the fielders can’t see the ball and it could come down anywhere,” Farley said. “It’s especially a concern for our ‘old timers league’ where the players are between 35 and 73 years old. And it can be a real liability for us.”

He noted some lights were also knocked out by lightning on Field 2 at Buckeye Park and need to be replaced.

Farley said the lights are the association’s greatest concern, but if there would be any money left over after the lights are raised the group would also like to have a scoreboard installed and a donated flagpole erected.

“We also have a lot of volunteers to help with any work that has to be done,” he said.

Coleman said the Buckeye Park ball fields would also require some ADA upgrades, including two 20-foot sidewalks from the parking area to the fields. He estimated the concrete cost for those walkways would be around $626, based on a cost of $6 per square foot.

If the city is approved for the full $31,000 ODNR grant, it would require a local match of $7,750, which Coleman said could be covered with in-kind services, including labor and materials for the projects.

Members of Marietta City Council’s lands, buildings and parks and finance committees will discuss the two projects and the grant funding during a meeting in the Lookout Park community building beginning at 3 p.m. today.

Coleman said the deadline to apply for the Nature Works grant is May 1.