A $100 million investment in quality of life: 12 Huntsville recreation projects underway

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Imagine being able to kayak through the rapids during the day, have a picnic, and then walk to hear your favorite band at the Orion Amphitheater.

Sound a little far-fetched? Actually no.

Plans are underway to add bleachers to Apollo Park, home of the newly opened Amphitheater in Mid-City Huntsville.

“It won’t be Nantahala rapids, but it will be an opportunity for people to get on the water and paddle their canoes or kayaks around,” Huntsville Parks and Recreation Director James Gossett said. “I think it will be a great experience.”

The improvements to Apollo Park are among 12 parks and recreation projects either in development or in the planning stages, Gossett said during an event Wednesday that proclaimed July as Parks and Recreation Month in Huntsville.

:Some of them are small like playground drainage projects,” he said. “And some of them are Joe Davis-sized projects. They are all over the spectrum and all over town. It’s not just one country.”

It’s all part of an expansion that has seen the city spend more than $100 million over the past decade to improve the park and recreation system, Gossett said.

The City of Huntsville has 60 parks, 15 recreation and community centers, 100 athletic fields, and 50-plus miles of trails and greenways with activities from sand volleyball to skateboarding, dog parks to disc golf, and soon: kayaking and canoeing in rapid rapids. .

“We continue to look at different spaces and the different needs of our community,” Gossett said.

The addition of the steps isn’t the only improvement coming to Apollo Park.

“We’re also putting in an outdoor fitness exercise piece in conjunction with Arts Huntsville,” he said. “It’s going to be a really nice amenity there.”

Gossett said the city is finalizing the design for the park.

“There was some preliminary construction done,” he said. “Hopefully later this year, we’ll see that take off.”

Construction on another park, Legacy Park, will begin much sooner.

“Some of the contractors are already out on the ground,” Gossett said. “We expect that by the end of the month you will start seeing construction.”

Legacy Park, north of Huntsville, is being built on the site of the former Johnson High School and will be connected to the Johnson Heritage Center, which opened in 2020.

“It’s going to be a multi-use park there with a playground, walking trails, a small outdoor recreation area,” Gossett said. “There will also be one of the fitness parts. We have four of them that we will put in parks scattered throughout the city.”

The park, which will be a transformation of the old high school parking lot into green space, is expected to open next spring.

At John Hunt Park, work is underway on the new Get-A-Way Skatepark, the renovation of the Kids’ Space and the creation of an 18-hole disc golf course. An expansion of the championship fields will add two synthetic turf fields for soccer and lacrosse.

The site with the skate park and Children’s Space will be rebuilt, Gossett said.

“We’re going to have a new parking lot there, new lighting, basically it’s going to be a whole new area from what people are used to seeing,” he said.

Renovation of Joe Davis Stadium is targeted for spring 2023.

“We’re really excited about Joe Davis Stadium,” Gossett said of the former home of the Huntsville Stars minor league baseball team off South Memorial Parkway. “It will be a multi-use facility. It will fill several different needs in the community with what we think will be a professional soccer team here in Huntsville. We believe this will happen. We have high school football that could be there. You have lacrosse that can be there. We can serve and meet the needs of multiple groups there.”

City Administrator John Hamilton said residents “are blessed to be in a community that has the opportunity to make these types of investments and really focus on the quality of life for our community.”

“What I would like us to do is take this (Parks and Recreation Month) declaration as a challenge as a community for us to continue to identify those needs and wants and desires for quality of life infrastructure and continue to every year to improve and increase this infrastructure,” he said.

The city highlights several events throughout the month, including:

  • Community Chalk Art Festival – Friday, July 15, 5:30 p.m.: Taking place in Big Spring Park in conjunction with Downtown Huntsville Inc.’s Food Truck Rally, residents can dine and enjoy live music while creating their own chalk art masterpiece near the Huntsville Art Museum.
  • Rec and Reading Day – Tuesday, July 19, 9-10:30 a.m.: Children of all ages are encouraged to visit the Dr. Heritage Center. Robert Shurney at 3011 Sparkman Drive NW to enjoy interactive storytelling by Huntsville-Madison County Public Library staff. Kids can also cool off with ice, water games and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
  • Concert on the Green – Saturday, July 30, 5:00 p.m.: Parks and Rec Month will conclude with live music and more on the SR Butler Green, located in Campus 805. The music will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Other events include an artist symposium, family movie night and a men’s mentoring event at Top Golf. More details can be found at Huntsville Parks and Recreation Facebook page. All activities are free.

“Parks and Recreation Month is a great time to highlight our great parks and recreation facilities, while also honoring our hard-working employees who serve the public,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Whether you like to swim, run, bike or play ball or beach volleyball, our facilities offer something special for all of our citizens.”

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