BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – Another item has been checked off Beckley’s to-do list and Leslie Baker, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Beckley, says new plans are already in the works.
Baker described Beckley’s plans for renovation and revitalization as multiple projects happening at once. Some are done concurrently and some are held back for bigger plans to be finished first.
Now that the city has paid off the $3 million Historic Black Knight Municipal Park, Baker says they can focus on projects that have been developing for quite some time.
“Black Knight is done, and now we will move onto the next thing,” Baker said, first mentioning the plans for a new skate park.
According to Baker, the Freedom Skate Park on Eisenhower Drive is 20 years old and not up to par with current skate parks.
“We are aware that it needs to be updated, and it’s just there in the mix with a lot of other things,” she said. “We want a new rec center, and we have 13 parks that we are working on updating slowly but surely. It’s not something that can be done all at once.”
In terms of the 13 parks, Baker says playground equipment has to be bid out, and money has to become available through HUD grants for low to moderate-income parks. Meanwhile, other funding must be collected for parks that do not qualify for HUD funding.
The city is currently working to update its third park, but Baker says Parks and Recreation is waiting on the 2020 census to see if any changes have been made to the neighborhoods’ demographic.
“Right now, parts of the city aren’t considered low to moderate-income,” she explained. “So, we can’t apply for HUD grants. We want to see what the next census says and if it will bring any more funding for the city.”
“It’s just a mix of things, and it’s kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle,” she continued. “For Freedom Park, we have monies available through a grant that is moving forward and is in Charleston. We used city funds to pay off Black Knight and use a lot of Parks and Rec funds, as well as general funds to help run the parks.”
The city is continuing to move on with these new recreational plans as it works to determine funding. Basic plans and drawings have been made for the skate park, while the rec center is only in the first stages of planning. Multiple locations were considered for the center, but Baker believes the best choice would be to replace the current center on Maxwell Hill due to its parking accommodations and the size of the property.
Baker says that while these improvements will take some time to complete, Parks and Recreation will continue to make Beckley the best city it can be while maintaining the many parks, museums and trails that it houses.
“These are big projects that take a lot of time,” Baker said. “We are not an essential service. We are not fire protection or police protection or public works, but I believe that we are the heart of the city. There is just a lot of moving parts, and there’s a lot that we do that people enjoy.”