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Riverdale moves forward in replacing Wilson Park

After nearly a year, the Riverdale City Council is moving forward with the process of constructing a new park on Wilson Road, that is expected to replace Travon Wilson Park, which was once located on part of the ground where the new Riverdale Town Center sits.

During the city council meeting, Monday night, members voted, unanimously, to approve the demolition of three houses on Wilson Road to make room for the new park.

Construction on the park will be done in two phases, according to City Manager Iris Jessie, and the demolition of the houses will be part of phase one.

"Once asbestos is removed from the homes, we want to have a ceremony before we do the demolition, which is expected to be done sometime in the beginning of July," said Jessie.

The project has not been without controversy, however, because many residents believe the city sacrificed the old Travon Wilson Park, in order to build its Town Center complex. Travon Wilson Park was named in honor of a local youngster, who was killed tragically, and the community rallied around his memory. When the city needed land for the Town Center project, it took the property on which Travon Wilson Park stood, and promised to build a bigger, better park elsewhere.

However, whether the new park will be named after Travon Wilson has not, yet, been decided, according to Jessie. She said the city council is still in discussion as to whether to name the new facility in memory of Travon Wilson.

"Right now, it's just a new park," she said. "We know in the past it was a lot of concern from the community. Some people were for it, and some against it. The city will have to decide, so right now, we don't know if the park will be named after Travon Wilson."

Once the demolition of the houses is complete, she said, the city will issue a contract for construction services, hopefully, the end of July. A playground currently on the property will be removed and donated to the Riverdale Headstart Program, said Jessie.

"Before August, and in the next month-and-a-half, there's going to be a lot going on at the site," she said. "You're going to see some serious dirt being removed."

Jessie said the construction of phase one of the new park is estimated to cost $3 million, and will include: a new baseball field, concession space and restrooms, a football/multipurpose field, pavilions, a children's playground, and picnic areas.

The start of the second phase, according to Jessie, has not been determined, but once the first phase is complete, council members will look at dates for phase two. Plans for the second phase, she said, include: a "Sports Complex" consisting of a 300-foot-wide baseball field with removable sports fencing, walking trails, a concession building with restrooms, a community building, and more parking.

The new park will have twice the space as the former Travon Wilson Park, as well as new safety features, and will be handicap accessible, Jessie said.

"The old park did not have these features, and so I think this will be good for the community," she said. "I think it will work out well."

Jessie said the city expects to have construction complete sometime next year. "We hope to have people out on the baseball fields next spring."