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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)


Standifer Gap Park will soon see some much-needed renovations.

As part of a countywide initiative to improve the region's 17 parks, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation has begun assessing the needs of each property, including the park on Standifer Gap Road, which has fallen into disrepair over the past few years.

The first two things to be fixed will be the park's slide and swing set, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Tom Lamb told local residents during a community meeting at Standifer Gap Seventh-day Adventist Church on Nov. 1.

The slide, which is currently surrounded by yellow caution tape, has a hole near the bottom, making it an eyesore as well as a safety hazard for local children. Lamb said the county will begin working with local playground equipment supplier PlayCore to rectify the issue.

"They have assured us that they can provide us with a piece of equipment that will fit the specs of the playground there now so we can replace that slide," Lamb said.

PlayCore will also replace the park's swing set with a variety of swings for different ages, a process that will include installing safety surfacing and other necessary requirements.

"We want to make sure that we don't just slap you up a swing set, but we put something in that's going to last, that's built to accommodate all the needs and is something that we know won't have a lot of maintenance costs in the future," Lamb explained.

Lamb said the department would also look at where people go in the park and how they use it to help guide decisions about where to put some of the amenities community members requested, such as additional picnic tables and a shaded pavilion or structure.

While there is no timeline for when all the renovations will be complete, Lamb said it is a top priority. County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the project, which he anticipates will be more than $15,000, could be brought to the Hamilton County Commission for approval as early as December.

"This is a good example of how the government does work well," Coppinger said, praising residents for bringing their concerns about the park to District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Smedley.

While residents brought up several additions and improvements they wanted to see for the park, such as a hitting board for the tennis court and the resurfacing of the park's aged walking paths, attendees were most eager to see a new basketball court.

Approximately 10 years ago, the park's basketball court was permanently closed to put an end to the suspected drug dealing and fighting that often took place there. Now, locals say they want to see that ban lifted.

"I don't think it's fair for outsiders to deprive the people actually living in the community of that freedom to be able to play basketball," said Frances Denson, who presides over community meetings. She added that kids playing the sport in the street presents a safety issue. "We have to come up with some kind of system that would work."

To keep the basketball court from once again drawing illegal activity, meeting attendees suggested additional security measures, such as a building a fence around the court, setting clear rules and closing hours and requiring registration to use the facilities.

Though Coppinger explained that officials cannot restrict access due to the park's public status, he said they could have a say in behavior and encouraged the residents to serve as watchdogs.

"You're here because you care about your community," he said, "and that's the best policing you can actually have."

Coppinger asked attendees to have patience in terms of the basketball court, saying that even if the county is able to put one in, that couldn't happen until the spring due to weather conditions.

He also urged residents to continue to go to commissioners with local needs.

"None of us really know what your needs are the way that you know what they are. We're dependent upon you to let us know," Coppinger said. "We can't fix what we don't know. And that's the most frustrating thing."

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November 14, 2016


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