Park could be ‘game changer’

Published 1:21 am Saturday, June 1, 2013

060113new parkdesign

A pedestrian bridge, walking path, RV park, aquatic garden, kayaking and a zip line — those are just a few of the amenities that could be located in a new Brewton park if funding comes through in the future.

The city has big plans for the anonymous gift of 48 acres across the creek from Burnt Corn Creek Park, and is aggressively seeking grants to fulfill the dream.

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“This could be a game changer for Brewton,” said Connie Baggett, director of program management for the City of Brewton, who has been working with planners from Goodwyn Mills and Cawood to develop the design and seek grants for the project.

On a colorful preliminary map designed by Goodwyn Mills and Cawood, the amenities are spelled out: a pond, which already exists on the property but could be expanded, RV parking with a pavilion, a nature center, an aquatic garden, places for kayak takeout, and a zip line course.

While a good portion of the property is in a flood plain and would not be allowed to have new structures, the northwest corner is out of the flood plan and could have an amphitheater.

But the first task would be building a pedestrian and bike bridge from Burnt Corn Creek Park to the new property. Engineers are working on a cost estimate for the structure.

“The biggest thing is the bridge,” said Mayor Yank Lovelace, who said he has had a vision for the park since before he began running for mayor.

A swinging bridge at one time connected both pieces of property, but it has long since collapsed. A new bridge would likely be located near the front of both parks, visible from U.S. 31.

The park was once home to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and early 1940s. Little remains of the camp, but it retains historical value, Lovelace said.

Trails and walking paths through the park would be part of the attraction as well. Hiking enthusiast Eric Douglas has already been looking at the park’s existing trails and trying to determine where to put new ones, Lovelace said.

Walking paths and biking trails are part of a long-range plan to connect parks throughout the city.

Lovelace and Baggett said the new park would make use of one of the city’s greatest assets — the creek — on a piece of property that can’t be used for much else because it is in the flood plain.

“It’s a wonderful piece of property we can’t use for anything else,” Baggett said.

Key, of course, is funding. The city submitted a grant application last week for the project, and more are coming, including soliciting funding from the Deepwater Horizon fund set up by BP in the wake of the gulf oil spill.

And Baggett said in the future corporate donations could help sponsor different amenities in the park.

The new park design is the centerpiece to a plan that Goodwyn Mills and Cawood is developing for the entire city, with a focus on parks, downtown, Alco and Sowell Road neighborhoods, North Brewton commercial areas and the city’s gateways.

The park design plan is preliminary, and on June 17 the community will have a chance to view plans for all of the areas on which the design firm is focusing.

The meeting, to be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at city hall, will solicit input from the public and stakeholders, and those ideas will be incorporated into the final design.

In addition to the new park plans, Goodwyn Mills and Cawood is developing plans to expand a park in Alco and put a playground at the John L. Fisher Community Center, as well as redesign the city’s signage, among other projects.