A new wave of park upgrades and recreation projects is taking over Milton, with the city applying for, approving and securing funding for about dozen new projects — everything from a new BMX track and disc golf course to a basketball court complex and splash pad.
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved budget amendments that shift funding around for various projects that are either already underway or are slated to begin soon.
The budget amendments are representative of a larger trend within the city of Milton in the past year, with the city focusing a renewed effort on upgrading parks and recreation amenities.
"Around 20 years ago, when I first got here, we made a master plan of all the things that we wanted to build, which first was the community center and tennis courts," said Milton Parks and Recreation Director John Norton. "There was nothing here at the time, really. And so we did that, and then we did the Russell Harber Landing Park, and now this is like the next wave."
The "next wave" includes:
— A splash pad at Carpenters Park: The city approved the splash pad in January, and crews began construction at the splash pad site last week. It's expected to open by Memorial Day weekend.
— Improvements to the existing skate park: The improvements include adding bleachers with shade, as well as lighting around the park and drainage and erosion upgrades.
— A disc golf course: The course will be on the west end of the SportsPlex (the area around the Milton Community Center) and should be complete by this summer.
— A BMX track: The city has allocated $20,000 for the BMX track in the SportsPlex and is waiting to see if it will receive a $50,000 state grant this summer to bolster the project. The layout of the track is being completed this week.
— New basketball courts at Lucille Johnson Park: The city will spend $50,000 to tear out the adult basketball court and put in a new court, complete with LED lighting and new fencing around the courts .
— New restrooms for Russell Harber Landing Park: The city has allocated $102,880 for new restrooms, new picnic tables and trash cans.
— Large upgrades to the east end of Carpenters Park: The $800,000 project consists of a $400,000 matching grant that the city has already secured. The project will include kayak and boat launches, fishing docks, pavilions and other park amenities.
— Football field improvements: The city will spend $150,000 from its capital projects fund to upgrade the existing recreational football fields, including installing a press box, finishing fencing, completing irrigation, installing bleachers and making the sidewalks ADA-compliant.
— New basketball courts at the SportsPlex: The city has applied for a $400,000 matching grant from the state that would allow it to put in several basketball courts, restrooms, pavilions, sidewalks, lighting and parking. In the event the city doesn't get the grant, it has set aside $250,000 in its budget to get the project started.
— $75,000 for upgrades to the community center parking lot
Most of the funding for the various projects comes from the city's Local Option Sales Tax fund. The LOST sunsets Dec. 31, 2021. Other funding has come from Santa Rosa County, including funds from District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole and District 3 Commissioner Don Salter.
"LOST has really helped us to be able to do these things. We would not have been able to do them without that," Norton said. "Our studies show that around 80% of the participants that use our park facilities are county residents. The county has helped us out tremendously. It's really a joint effort between the county, the city and the state government, as well as the citizens with LOST."
Milton City Councilwoman Peggi Smith, who heads the Parks and Recreation subcommittee, said she was excited about the new improvements coming to the city.
"The BMX is hugely popular because people love to do anything fast where they can crash," Smith said. "It's like a race track, they just drive fast and turn left and keep going around and around in circles and they love to crash. And we have a lot of kids that skateboard on our bike trails. The whole community center is on acres and acres, and we just keep adding more stuff as money becomes available."
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.