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Parks committee rethinks use of Cheadle Lake Park

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Conversation about Cheadle Lake Park took up a majority of the time during the Parks, Trees and Trails Advisory Committee meeting on July 19.

Committee member Cindy Kerby, who is also heavily involved with the Strawberry Festival Association, initiated a discussion regarding plans for upcoming improvements and development at the park.

“The concern I have is two-fold,” Kerby said. “One is, as we look at the parks that we have in town and the regional parks, what is the best use of this space as far as financially and community-wise and what they will use this park for. I’m not sure that we’ve really kind of dived into covering what truly is the best use of this park.”

A plan currently designed for Cheadle Lake Park includes three full-size baseball diamonds, an amphitheater and additional parking.

“I know originally (the park) was purchased for the Strawberry Festival and to be an event venue type park, and throughout the planning in the old plan and the new plan there’s also a sports park part of it that’s being developed,” she said. “My concern is, is there truly a good crossover with that and, if so, how do we make it really work for both things? The other part of that is financially the upkeep of a venue park versus a sports park; how do we juggle that not knowing the financial state of the city?”

As such, Kerby said she believes the committee has an obligation to dive deeper and figure out what the best use of the land truly is, to make sure it is doing what’s best for the community and the city as a whole. She also mentioned a possibility that trends in baseball are declining while interest in pickleball is increasing.

A 2007 design proposal for Cheadle Lake Park

Last year the city purchased 10 acres of adjacent land east of the park, which was not included in plans developed in 2007 or 2022. Kerby suggested moving the westernmost baseball diamond to that empty space, thus providing a more open and unobstructed space for event venues on the west. Or, she said, build only two baseball diamonds and leave the eastern parcel for overnight camping.

Engineering Director Ron Whitlatch said a $2.6 million grant received from the state for the park offers the city plenty of time to reconsider the park’s space and initiate an engineering design.

PTT Chair Rick Barnett suggested the committee take time to consider options and ideas, and place the matter up for further discussion on a future agenda.

“This is a great thing that Lebanon’s got,” Barnett said. “Most communities don’t get that. How do we best use it as a community? Keep in mind it needs to be self-sustaining and bring revenue 20 years out. We need to look at what the community needs and what the community wants, and maintaining the intent of the ground.”

Committee member and city councilor Dave Workman stressed that, for him, the park needs to be self-sustaining.

“It can’t cost us more to have this,” Workman said. “However we decide to use this property, it has to benefit the whole city and it has to be a profit center.”

Workman and Whitlatch questioned whether any baseball fields were even warranted because there are already several throughout town, and said it’s a decision the committee must determine. Whitlatch also noted that baseball tournaments would probably need to run all spring and summer to make the space profitable or self-sustaining.

“You gotta hone in on ‘What is the park gonna be? What is it gonna be used for?’” Whitlatch said. “It’s gonna be really hard to have that many multiple uses and be a real money maker.”

Kerby suggested finding out how much revenue the park has produced from activities already happening at the park, and what kind of events those were.

In other business:

♦ Build Lebanon Trails volunteer Rod Sell informed staff the nonprofit has been looking at upcoming proposed developments in the city and identified potentially missed opportunities to secure trails in some of those developments.

Current and proposed trails are included in city master plans, some of which are on the west end of Lebanon where new developments may be in the works, Sell said.

“If it was important back in 2009 and 2006 (when the plans were adopted) when the community said ‘We want this trail,’ I think it’s still important today,” he said.

The city, he said, needs to update the master plan and have some sort of requirement for developers to fulfill those plans; otherwise, the city may miss the opportunity to eventually secure a trail on the west side of town.

“It really is important to the physical and mental health of our community and our children,” Sell said.

Whitlatch estimated it would cost $200,000 to update the trails master plan and require developers to provide a right-of-way for those trails, and right now that’s money the city simply doesn’t have.

The PTT committee approved a motion to request City Council look at updating master plans when funds become available.

Proposed trail system to Had Irvine Park.

♦ Sell gave an update on BLT projects. The nonprofit is applying for grants to improve a trail at Gill’s Landing that is part of a trail system running through town north and south. The project is estimated to cost $211,000. The committee agreed to provide a letter of support to assist BLT in obtaining the grants.

Also, BLT has determined a surveyor is needed as part of a process to secure right-of-way for property that would connect Had Irvine Park to the Dr. Thad Nelson trail. The committee agreed to provide support for the nonprofit’s effort in this endeavor.

“The dream of a trail system that goes all the way from the north of town all the way to the south of town, off road and not using sidewalks, is a reality in the next few years,” Sell said.

♦ City Maintenance Manager Jason Rush provided an update on city activity. Staff removed a maple tree at 213 E. Grant St. and two birch trees on Mountain River Drive. Cameras at the Lebanon Skate Park have been installed that feed directly into dispatch at the Lebanon Justic Center, and fencing will be installed at the park soon.

♦ Rush said the Beaton Lane trail project is on hold because a new development is being developed in the area that might include installation of a sewer line, which city would like completed before they do the trail project.