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Lions Park will be Rural Studio’s ‘most ambitious project yet’

Five Auburn Rural Studio Students are embarking on what may be the biggest Rural Studio project ever – renovating Greensboro’s Lions Park.

“We feel privileged to do this project,” team member Daniel Splaingard said, “This is probably the most ambitious project yet for Rural Studios.”

After getting to know the city and learning about what residents want, Splaingard, Mark Wise, Alicia Gjesvold, Jeremy Sargent, and Laura Filipek, have finally began the physically demanding first phase of the process, which includes reconstructing the baseball fields by grading and draining the land, building backstops, dugouts, scoreboards, and seating, and installing lighting.

“Baseball will be the first phase because it is the cornerstone of the park,” chairman of Lions Park committee Don Ballard said.

“It’s unfolding well and I am definitely looking forward to it,” Hale County Commissioner Yolanda Watkins said of the plans. “The project has the county’s support and we will support it 100 percent.”

“After completing this sort of ‘cultural inventory’ of seventh to twelfth graders in the area, and some adults,” Splaingard told the audience during a PowerPoint presentation, “we created this list of ‘suggested ingredients,’ which includes four baseball fields, two soccer/football fields, two tennis courts, three basketball courts, a one-mile walking trail, a playground, volleyball area, a riding arena – which may be covered- and possibly some sort of amphitheater.”

“The master plan is the greatest thing to happen to Greensboro, and Hale County,” Greensboro city council member Johnnie Davis said, “but it’s been a long time coming for our youth. They are always going somewhere else and then coming back and asking why they can’t have fields like the other ones.”

Davis said he and fellow councilman Joe Kyser also want to make sure the park is a place for seniors, which is one of the main reasons they “worked so hard to get on the committee.”

“We want to make sure the park is taken care of long after we are gone and we also want to make sure the seniors can have activities out there too. Maybe one day we can have a community center or something out there,” Davis said. “But the main thing is to upgrade the quality of life to bring business and people back to the city.”

The principles of the students’ design for the park area are to create a park for the betterment of the community, make every choice environmentally intelligent with as little long-term maintenance, and use as many currently available resources.

“We won’t fix whatever isn’t broken,” Splaingard said.

Thus the team will attempt to reuse fencing, poles, posts and whatever else could be salvaged from the current park.

Representative Ralph Howard, who also attended the presentation, is excited about the new project coming to his district.

“I’ve been working on improving the community and this is an excellent project for the city,” Howard, D-District 72, said. “We need more projects like this because they tie into so much more than just getting people to come into the community. They are good for the youth and adults already in the community.”

“It’s not about what we do,” Splaingard said, “but what the community receives.”

But for the park to achieve its true greatness, it will take a lot of manpower along with a lot of funding.

Thanks to area companies, and some out-of-town businesses, Ballard said the group is a mere $3,600 from their $75,000 goal for phase one.

“But we shouldn’t be stopping with that,” he said, “because we are always going to need money for something else. This is just phase one.”

And even after the building process is complete, funds will be necessary to maintain the grounds.

“This community needs to come together to keep the park maintained and I will work with you anyway I can,” Howard, who recently sent an application for a $50,000 grant towards the project, said.

When it comes to the work, the five Auburn students can’t do it alone, so they are asking for community help.

“We want you guys to really be involved and we want to work with you as a community,” Wise said.

“It’s going to take all of us to get it together,” Ballard said. “We’ve got to depend on each other to get something done.”

“It’s been a long journey. We’ve come a long way,” president of the Greensboro Baseball Association Robbie Hoggle said, “But we’re closer now to getting something serious done than we’ve ever been and I really hope we continue working together to make it happen.”