By Randy Bell
The City of Clinton is poised to move forward with park improvements, which will focus first on basic infrastructure, with new features planned in later phases.
The Board of Aldermen will vote at its October 3 meeting on a list of priorities for the $1.2 million that’s being generated annually by the two percent restaurant tax that Clinton voters overwhelmingly approved in July of last year.
During a public hearing at the September 19 Board meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Courtney Nunn said the revenue will help Clinton “get back to being the premier city for parks.”
In the first phase of the work, restrooms and concession stands at Traceway Park and Kids’ Towne will be built or renovated. Also planned is an all-inclusive playground at Brighton Park. The City also intends to expand the pickleball courts at Kids’ Towne, much to the delight of a group of citizens who attended the public hearing to thank Nunn for making the emerging sport a priority.
In the second phase of the park improvements, Kids’ Towne will get a paved walking path. Also, a challenge course and an upgraded outdoor fitness studio will be built at Brighton, and Traceway will get shaded bleachers and a new playground.
The third phase will include a skate park and outdoor fitness equipment at Kids’ Towne, and Traceway will get lights on its walking path, as well as scoreboard upgrades, along with a restroom-concession stand project, which may be financed with revenue from Clinton’s one percent hotel tax instead of the restaurant tax money. The hotel tax is also paying for the resurfacing of tennis courts at Brighton.
Some Clintonians wonder—what about Robinson Park?
By Randy Bell
With Clinton preparing to spend its restaurant tax revenue on recreation, some people are trying to make sure the park they frequent isn’t forgotten. While major improvements are planned at Kids’ Towne, Traceway Park and Brighton Park, there’s nothing on the list for Robinson Park.
Sam Minter concedes that the City took care of some of the needs at the park on Neal Street in 2021 and 2022. But he says Robinson Park still has safety concerns and lacks a place for families and friends to gather.
Minter says a year ago, when restaurants began collecting the two percent tax, he and others in the community were hopeful that further improvements would be made at Robinson Park.
“We were told then that we’d be in a better position—now, I didn’t say that it was promised that it would take place—but we’d be in a better position to finish the project,” said Minter.
He says two major jobs remain—perimeter fencing and construction of a pavilion.
“We just want to do something to secure the park, for obvious reasons,” said Minter. “You’d have more people coming if the resources were there. People could bring their kids. They could do the walking trail and feel safe while they’re there.”
Minter says the pavilion only needs to be big enough to seat one hundred to one hundred fifty people.
Even though Robinson Park isn’t mentioned in the first three phases of park improvements, Minter isn’t giving up hope.
“We can’t throw in the towel,” he says. “Up until a year or year and a half ago, we just had issues you wouldn’t believe. Our mayor has worked with us. I just didn’t realize we had this many more items [at the other parks] that were put on the table. So, now we’re back to square one again.”
Minter says he’s hoping that Robinson Park might be included in a future phase of park improvements.
“Hopefully, they can find resources to do a couple of things,” Minter said. “We’re just trying to make sure we don’t end up on the short end of the effort.”
Mayor Phil Fisher says that, before the restaurant tax revenue was available, he raised $528,000 to use at Robinson Park for restrooms, a new walking trail, drainage work and a basketball court for youngsters. If not for those improvements, he’s confident the park would have rated as a higher priority.
“They would have been more in the mix,” Fisher says. “Just like if we had spent $528,000 at Kids’ Towne, they would have been less in the mix.” Fisher says the projects which were chosen are at parks that were overdue for improvements.
“Brighton Park has had nothing done to it in twenty years,” Fisher says. “While things have been done off and on at Traceway, the bathrooms are deplorable. And there are some other areas that need to be taken care of that have sort of been passed over. Kids’ Towne Park is the most disorganized area you could possibly see. And, truthfully, I envision that as being the City’s largest park when we’re through.”
According to the Mayor, looking at the big picture for improving the parks means no more long gaps between projects, instead making steady progress at the parks every year.
But Fisher says, “There are going to be some hurt feelings and growing pains as we get through this.”