By Joel Hall
Started on a two-acre tract of land surrounding the Morrow Municipal Complex, Charles Milton Daniel Memorial Park has stood as the City of Morrow's premiere recreational space since the early 1980s.
Now, with five acres of land dedicated to the park, city officials plan to expand it. According to Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady, the first of the city's 5 phases of park improvements began last May, with a $110,000 improvement of the park's "tot lot." New playground equipment, landscaping improvements, tree removal, and sod installation, were done, he said.
On Tuesday, the Morrow City Council voted unanimously to apply for a grant through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), to assist in a projected $70,000 resurfacing of the one-fifth-of-a-mile walking tract that circles the park.
Eady said the resurfacing project would entail replacing the track's crushed-stone surface with a lower-maintenance rubber material. If the city is successful in obtaining the grant, said Eady, Morrow would be required to pay half of the cost of the project.
"The track we have right now is really high maintenance," Eady said. "Right now, we pay $700 to $1,000, anywhere from two to three times a year, to refurbish the track. That is just the stone. Then, our public works employees will get the tractors, and the Bobcats, to make it uniform. The rubberized material will eliminate all that."
Eady said the city used LWCF funding to pay for $50,000 of the "tot lot" park improvements. Morrow Grants and Zoning Administrator Sylvia Redic, who will apply for the grant for the second phase of the project, said it would be an investment in the city's senior population.
"It's a lot less costly in terms of maintenance, and it is the number-one recreation facility that serves our senior citizen population," Redic said. "It is less physical impact on their bodies, and it enhances the overall aesthetics of the park."
Eady said the resurfacing project signals the start of Phase II of the overall park-development plan. Phase II, which is estimated to cost $600,000, will include demolition, tree removal, relocation of the city's emergency warning siren, landscaping upgrades, and preparation for a 60-space expansion of the park's parking lot, according to Eady. He said the extra spaces would add to the 127 spaces now shared between the park and the Morrow Municipal Complex. It also would provide additional parking when the city's traffic court is in session.
"Parking is at a premium on court days," Eady said. "A few years back ... we actually purchased a little bit of the property from the Taco Bell and expanded our parking by about 16 spaces. Our long-term expansion plans have another 60-plus spaces, which gives us [more] access to the park."
Eady said other planned improvements include:
* Phase III -- The construction of new parking areas and walkways leading to the municipal center.
* Phase IV -- Clearing and grading, the construction of pedestrian bridges over certain drainage areas, and additional site furnishings, such as new electrical outlets, benches, and trash receptacles.
* Phase V -- New playground equipment, the construction of an adult-exercise area, and the addition of a new picnic gazebo.
Once all five phases of the project are completed, they are expected to cost a little more than $1 million, said Eady. He said they may take several years to complete. The speed of the completion of projects will depend on the city dollars and grants available, he said.
"When you look at the entire scope of the project, it's five phases that may stretch out seven to 10 years," Eady said. "If we could, I would love to purchase all the property from Milton Daniel [Park] to Reynolds Road. If the property becomes available, I would love to expand the park another five to 10 acres. How much money we can dedicate to the project will determine when we can finish it."