HED:New Albany holds public hearing on condition of park

CATEGORY: Union County

AUTHOR: BROWN

HED:New Albany holds public hearing on condition of park

By LaRaye Brown

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – About 15 people gathered Tuesday evening to discuss the condition of New Albany’s Shady Dell park.

Ward 2 Alderman Tommie Beasley called the meeting months after the city came under heavy criticism for the park’s condition, mainly for the lack of playground equipment there.

In 1996, Wendy’s restaurant donated playground equipment to the park. Community activist Jennifer Jones has continued to bring attention to other problems at the park including rusty nails jutting from pieces of rotted wood in the park. The city removed the nails, but this was the first meeting a city official has called specifically to discuss the park with the public since then.

In addition to Beasley, mayor-elect Walter Johnson represented the city. Outgoing mayor Tom Cooper did not attend.

The meeting produced a seven-member committee. While Beasley chose not to be on the committee, he did ask that members meet with him in the park after specific requests for playground equipment were formulated. Johnson also promised to work with whomever had concerns about the park.

During the gathering in the fellowship hall of Watson Grove Baptist Church on East Bankhead Street, several thumbed through playground equipment books.

“This is not a monetary issue,” Beasley said when asked about the financial limits on spending for the park. “We want to stay within the reasonable realms.”

Beasley added that he would present the committee’s final request to the Board of Aldermen. If the board approved the request, bids would be taken from suppliers.

During the meeting, Jones questioned why the city had spent money resurfacing the basketball courts and putting up fences around the courts instead of purchasing playground equipment.

Johnson said those requests were initially made four to five years ago. Beasley said the courts were resurfaced because they are the most-used part of the park.

Beasley criticized the media attention that has been given to the park.

“I don’t think we need North Mississippi to solve our problems,” he said. Others in the room echoed that concerned, spurring the discussion of a need for a committee.

“We can’t get anywhere until we get some solid people working on that park,” said Gwen Armstrong, who was among the seven who volunteered to be on the committee.

Jones asked Beasley about the $20,000 Cooper had said the city would spend on the park.

“We need to put what was done behind us,” cautioned Armstrong. “We need it pick it up from today and go forward with it.”

The seven member committee gathered after the 45-minute meeting.

“What I’m searching for is unity,” Beasley said after the meeting, noting that he was pleased with the outcome. “Unity doesn’t come about by small disputes here and there.”