Park Board, Sept. 9, 2016

Chris Bailey joins the park board for Ward 2.

Chris Bailey joins the park board for Ward 2.

The brief business meeting was the first for new Ward 2 member Chris Bailey, who was chosen out of two applicants to replace Marjorie Trimm, who moved out of Homewood. Mr. Bailey is a baseball program director for the rec program’s under 9 group.

The business meeting was followed by informal discussion of park projects, including pool use, flag football and proposed off-season basketball skills clinics for elementary kids. Mr. Meeks answered questions on the status of several issues before the board–Exceptional Foundation contract, the Gateway Project, and plans for the new property adjoining the parks (no information available on the property).

Members present: Chris Meeks, chair, Gary Isenhower, Jody Brant, Paula Smalley, Becky Morton, and new member Chris Bailey.

Members absent: Gary Isenhower, Tyler Vail, and Michael Murray.

Staff present: Rusty Holley and board secretary, taking minutes. Berkley Squires, public services superintendent, was absent.

Audience attendance: 1

Approved the August meeting minutes.

Approved the Exceptional Foundation Knights of Columbus Rental.

Approved the Homewood Relay for next April: The American Cancer Society fundraising walk, and related family activities, was approved at Central Park for Friday and Saturday, April 21-22, 2017, beginning at 10 a.m. each day and with an expected attendance of 2,500.

Under certain conditions, the board will allow the Urban Cookhouse chain to host its Homewood Farmers' Markets at Central Park this summer.

The Urban Cookhouse chain, after persuading the board to allow its Homewood farmers markets at Central Park, shut the series down when attendance plummeted, possibly because of competition from the Trinity church market.

Discussion of Urban Cookhouse farmers market shutdown: The park board was reluctant to approve the restaurant’s request for a summer-long Saturday spot at Central Park to expand its farmers market, saying it utilized a lot of public property for private gain and citing damage to the grounds from vendor vehicles. But approval was finally granted with some limits set on vehicle traffic, only to have the market abruptly shut down after a couple of weeks. Mr. Holley said no reason was given but it seemed crowds preferred the market at Trinity church parking lot. There has been no talk of trying it again next year.

Discussion surrounding the growth of flag football: Flag football starts Saturday, Sept. 10, with 236 signed up compared to 128 last year. Mr. Holley said he postponed signups last year until regular football had completed registration. Regular football has suffered declining enrollments related to concerns over concussions. The program last year used (unlighted) fields at all three elementary schools, and the 6-acres field and baseball field outfields at West Homewood Park.

Discussion of possibly offering basketball skills classes for K-5: Mr. Stansell said Paul Brown was interested in the park utilizing unused courts in the off-season to offer skills courses elementary students. He will be invited to a future meeting to explore the idea.

Discussion of Central Park pool use for the season just ended: A rainy summer doused the numbers this year at the new pool, according to Mr. Holley. The Labor Day weekend finale saw more than 1,000 to the pool.

Questions addressed about the status of the “Gateway Project,” the board’s intended use for $4.25 million property adjoining ballfields, and parking agreement with Exceptional Foundation. Mr. Meeks could offer no further information on the park board’s share of the property, which the city purchased recently for the high school relocation and park uses. The protracted dispute over a shared parking agreement with the Exceptional Foundation ended in July when both parties signed a final agreement, he said. Copy of agreement is forthcoming.

As for the “Gateway Project”–the two-year-old plan to finish the new rec center with a landscaped entryway monument of some sort–Mr. Meeks reiterated that landscape architect Chuck Kelly had dusted off his drawings and re-presented them to a Facilities Committee meeting two months ago, but no decision had been made to go farther. He went over the project’s history, how the new $15 million rec center came in under budget and the board wanted to use those savings to mark the entryway with a special design. Former member Tom Walker in June 2014 added $200,000 to the board’s budget request for that purpose, which the mayor denied, saying the board could fund the project with private donations. Mr. Meeks said that is still a possibility and ideas about how to raise the cash are still floating around. Davis Architecture also had submitted an idea for the project. None has been made public yet.

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