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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)


Anderson resident Dorothy Allen needed a walker to get around when she started coming to the city's recreation center. She had exhausted her health insurance benefits for rehabilitation related to an immune-system disease.

Allen, 62, has visited the center on North Murray Avenue up to four times a week for the past three years. Her mobility has improved enough that she can now walk with a cane.

"This is my therapy," she said Tuesday while exercising with several other people in a room filled with treadmills and other fitness equipment.

There are two cycling machines in the room, and Allen said more are needed because "everybody is always waiting for them."

In the parking lot outside the center, Jeff Bredeson was lacing up his shoes. He has learned that the center tends to be less crowded on weekday afternoons.

"In the winter, it is pretty busy at night," said Bredson, 60.

A consultant is recommending that city officials spend nearly $30 million during the next decade to more than triple the size of the recreation center, which cost $5.2 million to build 11 years ago.

The expansion, planned to occur in two phases, would include space for four additional basketball courts, locker rooms and dedicated areas for yoga, spinning, weights and youth fitness. Plans also call for building tennis courts and a lacrosse/soccer field outside the center.

A report prepared by LandPlan Group South, which is based in Columbia, includes proposals for another $7.6 million worth of recreation and park improvements throughout the city by 2026. These proposals include:

$2.3 million for improvements at what would be known as the Eastside Recreation Complex near the old McCants School. The improvements would include two fields, playground equipment and a restroom pavilion.

$2.25 for improvements at Linley Park in North Anderson. Plans call for two ball fields to be demolished to create more green space, as well as changing how traffic circulates near the park.

$1.3 million to add build four basketball courts an additional ball field at Jim Ed Rice Park on the city's east side.

$924,000 to enhance and expand Beatrice Thompson Park on West Market Street.

$893,000 to create the Whitner Creek Greenway Connection extending from Linley Park to Tribble Street

The consultant's recommendations are based on projections that the city's population will grow by nearly 50 percent in the next decade to 40,044. The city has added 1,051 residents since 2000, an increase of only 4 percent.

The projected population growth in Anderson "will have a tremendous impact on the recreation facilities and programs the city will be expected to provide in order to maintain and improve the quality of life and wellness of its residents," the consultant's report states.

The report says the city needs more athletic fields, as well as additional basketball and tennis courts. The report also says the amount of land for playgrounds, passive areas and picnic shelters needs to grow from an existing 100 acres to 400 acres. Additionally, the report suggests conducting a feasibility story on building an indoor swim center.

City Council members agreed last year to pay $121,800 to LandPlan Group South to update Anderson's recreation master plan. They are reviewing the consultant's 171-page report, which includes data from surveys that 155 residents completed.

Councilman Rick Laughridge said the recreation center needs to be expanded.

"It is used from the smallest kids in Anderson to the oldest people in Anderson," he said.

Councilman Kyle Newton said the consultant's report has a "lot of great ideas" that will make the city more desirable for both families and businesses.

Newton said investing in recreation programs and green space is "money well spent."

Mayor Terence Roberts said he believes Anderson is poised for population growth. While officials need to plan for an influx of future residents, he cautioned that they also must be financially prudent until this growth begins to boost the city's tax base.

Councilman Matt Harbin said he has questions for the consultant.

"Everything has a lot of zeroes," Harbin said. "It's expensive."

Councilwoman Beatrice Thompson voiced support for the consultant's recommendation to enhance and expand the park that is named after her on West Market Street. She said residents on the city's west side need a quality park.

People posting comments on the Independent Mail's Facebook page expressed mixed opinions about the consultant's recommendations.

Some people said the improvements would build a sense of community and give children more to do.

Others suggested that money could be better spent on law enforcement and roads.

Lauren Dicce, a 31-year-old Anderson native, was watching her 5-year-old daughter, Alexia, climb on playground equipment at Linley Park on Tuesday afternoon.

"This is how she gets her energy out," said Dicce, adding that she agrees that the city needs more playgrounds.

Follow Kirk Brown on Twitter@KirkBrown_AIM.

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March 3, 2017


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