By Vince Little, The BayonetOctober 30, 2009
Fort Benning, Ga. - Renovations are under way on French, Green and Blue fields to create a youth sports and recreation complex outfitted with a concession stand, walking trail and dining pavilions.
The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation is spending about $1.5 million on the project, which also includes construction of a second dog park on Main Post, a new playground, irrigation system and parking lot. Most of the work began in August, and grand opening is scheduled for mid-March.
The complex is near the so-called "Iron Triangle" housing area at the intersection of First Division Road and Yeager Avenue.
"Everything we do is linked to the Army Family Covenant - the playground most certainly is," said Jim Shoemaker, chief of DFMWR's Community Recreation Division. "Several funding sources were used for these projects ... It just happens to be coming together at the same time."
The dog park will sit on a five-acre lot with bench swings and a pavilion. Trees are being planted inside the fence to foster shade.
A concrete walking trail that stretches longer than a mile will surround the entire facility. Most of the trail already is done as visitors are using it daily.
"A second dog park will benefit folks in that part of the cantonment area, and having the walking trail and future playground near the sports fields will make it a one-stop shop for the whole family," said Outdoor Recreation manager Darlene Hines. "It's one of those places you can go and spend the entire day. Everybody will be happy, including the dog."
Shoemaker said a paved walking trail was among the top requests in the most recent Army Leisure Needs Survey done by DFMWR. It's conducted every three years.
There will be paved parking along Zuckerman Avenue - with at least 65 spaces - to support the dog park and athletic fields, he said. Now, people park on the grass during soccer matches and football games.
In the 1940s, French and Blue fields were used for polo, Shoemaker said. Blue Field's new irrigation system will allow for healthier manicuring and give maintenance workers far better control of the grass and various playing surfaces. The new sports complex will feature roughly 17 fields.
"For the children playing out there, they're essentially playing on abandoned polo fields right now," he said. "We cut the grass, and that's all we do. As we apply fertilizer and aeration to the playing surface, it will become much more player friendly. It's not fun to play on something that's hard as a rock. A field that has some give to it makes a huge difference.
"It will take some time, but the irrigation will give us the tools we need to get it there over a period of a couple years."
As part of irrigation project, DFMWR is constructing a concession stand with restrooms. It will be connected to two pavilions that may be used for team parties and functions.
"These new fields will be a morale booster for the kids, coaches, (Child, Youth and School Services) staff and parents," said Youth Services director Linda Laine. "Just having permanent bathroom facilities will be wonderful - no more porta-potties. And the concession stand, parents can have a good cup of hot coffee or cocoa during those cool Saturday morning games."
Shoemaker said Army Community Service is funding the $200,000 Boundless Playground. Construction hasn't begun yet but officials are hoping for a springtime opening.
"We talk about inclusive recreation that's accessible to everyone," he said. "Boundless Playgrounds is a brand name and they include other aspects in their playgrounds that are a step beyond handicapped-accessible so that children with impairments do not feel excluded."
According to the Boundless Playgrounds Web site, the nonprofit organization works with communities to develop playgrounds where children - with or without disabilities - can learn and play together. There are more than 160 Boundless Playgrounds in 31 states and two Canadian provinces.