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Firm to draw up master plan for central recreation park
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The plans for a proposed massive central recreation facility could be moving forward.

Effingham County commissioners approved a $70,000 bid for master planning and schematic design services for the central park. The park will be built on nearly 120 acres off Highway 21 and Ralph Rahn Road.

“It’s just one more step,” said Effingham County Recreation and Parks Director Clarence Morgan. “We can’t get to the end without taking this one.”

Under its scope of services, CHA Sports will develop a master plan that calls for the park to be built in phases. The complex is projected to encompass nine baseball fields, four multi-purpose fields, a gymnasium, restrooms, concession buildings, press boxes and parking. It also will have a playground that is American with Disabilities Act complaint.

The first phase is expected to include five baseball fields, batting cages, covered bleachers and a central building for a press box, concessions and restrooms. The gym also will be in the first phase.

CHA Sports originally was enjoined to conduct a master plan for the county’s Highway 119 park. That grew into a plan to address the county’s future recreation needs, leading to the purchase of the property off Highway 21 for a new park. CHA Sports was hired last July to complete the 15-year comprehensive parks plan.

Commissioners, at their May 5 meeting, pondered how to push the park project ahead.

“We need to move forward,” Chairman Wendall Kessler said. “I don’t want to see next year come and we haven’t done anything. I have said I want to see something out there in 18-24 months. We spent a lot of money and we made some promises. How do we get moving?”

Kessler also said the county was hoping to save about a half-million dollars in putting together the master plan and design.

CHA Sports will hold two one-day programming workshops with county staff, commissioners and recreation board members. The firm also will hold a project kick-off meeting with county staff to confirm the schedule and the master plan objectives.

Wetlands delineations already have been performed, and CHA Sports said a wastewater pump station will be required to be built on site.

Morgan added county representatives may visit six to eight other facilities around the state to help fill in their picture of what they want the park eventually to look like.

Once the commissioners have the master plan from CHA Sports, they have a range of options to pursue. They could allow the firm to proceed with those plans, put those plans out to bid, have the plans be part of a design/build project or have the county complete the work on its own.

“To get it out there the quickest, design-build is the best,” said County Administrator Toss Allen. “It’s the quickest delivery method.”