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From the Sidelines: Demopolis lucky to have park and rec crew

Demopolis is a pretty lucky town. It is a healthy city with a strong public school system, a bright and likable mayor and a slew of dedicated, hard-working public servants.

But for sports fans — and Demopolis is full of them — the town is blessed with some of the best coaches in the South, a series of quality youth leagues, tremendous facilities and a top-notch parks and rec department that helps all of it be possible.

Seriously. Visit any town of comparable size to Demopolis and you are guaranteed not to find athletic facilities as nice as those that exist in the City of the People.

Much of those can be attributed to parks and rec director Mark Pettus and his staff. While Pettus would be the last to beat his chest and the first to pass credit onto someone else, it is the work put in by his staff that makes many of Demopolis’ spring sports possible.

The crew just put the finishing touches on two new tee ball fields that will be open for play when the Cal Ripken baseball and Dixie Youth softball leagues kick off their respective seasons.

While the project took more than two years, it only cost $40,000 to complete. Those savings come as the result of Pettus and his crew’s construction skills.

“It just takes time to get it done when you do it that way,” Pettus said of the approach that allows his crew to work on projects during the offseason. “But at the same time, it saves us a fortune.”

That fiscally-conscious approach to parks and recreation projects becomes even more impressive when looking at other communities’ spending habits.

The Homewood city council voted last fall to allot $1.6 million to finish work at the city’s soccer complex before the beginning of the season.

Pettus’ approach has seen Demopolis affordably grow to a point in which its sports teams have access to 10 fields.

That fact makes scheduling much easier on youth baseball and softball leagues that served a total of nearly 500 young players in 2008.

“The kids now can go home and study instead of having to be out here until 10 at night,” Pettus said.

That level of planning and economic efficiency is impressive for a guy who admits that he didn’t know much about parks and recreation when he first took the director’s position in 1996.

“I had a construction background is one reason they hired me,” Pettus said. “I had to learn park and rec.”

Pettus’ work also reaches beyond the confines of the Sports-Plex. He and his crew are responsible for the new brick backstops at the Demopolis High School baseball and softball fields.

So while you’re taking in a baseball or softball game somewhere in Demopolis this spring, take the time to appreciate the work of the men whose work helps the city’s children to play.