By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Area residents may have noticed changes happening at Bellview Park on Fulton Street.
Over the past week, dirt has been moved into the park and flattened for what will soon become another practice space available for community sports teams.
Joe Manchin IV, a member of the Fairmont Parks Commission, said that the idea to create practice space came from a need they saw in the community.
“It came to our attention that there are a lot of kids that go out for youth sports every year. Soccer especially has gained traction. But there isn’t enough practice space and infrastructure in place to allow them to practice,” Manchin said. “So we looked around at city land and at the city parks, and we zoned in on Bellview Park.”
Manchin said that, while the site was not originally flat enough for a practice field, the board saw the potential.
“It has a nice pice of land,” Manchin said. “So what we decided to do, as a pilot project, is to come in and make the surface usable for soccer or T-ball practices.”
Manchin said the space would still be open to the general public, as well as the community teams. They have been trying to reach out and let area community leagues know that the practice space will be available soon.
“It isn’t near regulation size, but for children just getting acclimated to the sport, it will be more than sufficient. And it gets people to the park again, kids and their families,” Manchin said.
Manchin said that it has been an all-volunteer team effort.
“Everything has been a volunteer effort, a labor of love,” Manchin said. “This has been a zero-cost effort. Hopefully it will reap a benefit for the community.”
Manchin said that the dirt was donated, and the heavy machinery operators for moving and flattening the dirt were volunteers as well. Manchin said the city of Fairmont and MCPARC have been very important to this effort.
MCPARC hopes to have the practice field seeded and ready to go in a couple of weeks.
Manchin said that he hopes the project does well.
“This is sort of a pilot project. We’re hoping it takes off, and we can go to other parks that might have usable space and flatten there as well,” Manchin said. “There isn’t much flat land in Marion County.”
Manchin said they’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community so far.
“As soon as you tell them it’s for the kids, everyone just says this is absolutely great,” Manchin said. “Instead of having to drive their kids 15 minutes away, they have something in their back yards now.”
But the park won’t be getting only a new practice field.
The park will also be getting a new playground.
Bellview Park received new playground equipment in 2012.
But in June 2012, just a couple of weeks after the equipment was installed, it was destroyed in a fire. The fire was determined to be arson.
Now, the city has received a MCPARC grant to replace that equipment.
“We’ve ordered something bigger and better,” said Mark Miller, program manager with the Fairmont Planning and Development Department.
“We’re also going to redo the backboards and rims at the basketball court, and the jungle gym. We’ll get a new swing set, and then just a big replacement for the playground,” Miller said. He said that a local resident helped with the MCPARC grant application that will fund the equipment.
“With her help, we got money to purchase some additional pieces,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to get it installed in the next two months.”
Miller said that the new playground will be installed by volunteers. Anyone who wants to help volunteer to install the playground may contact their office at 304-366-6211, ext. 333.
Email Colleen S. Good at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.