Ball field repairs a good start-but they’re not the end

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We appreciate the work and money the city is investing into Friendship Park.

Last weekend, at least 500 people poured into Picayune to use the park’s ball fields, and over the spring and summer we’re expecting thousands more to come to town.

Naturally, we hope all our visitors have a good time and return to town. In addition, repairing softball and baseball fields adds value for residents, who will enjoy attractive, level playing fields. It is clear the park will be both an economic asset to the community and a visitor destination, so with that in mind, we would like to suggest a few more improvements the city should consider over the long term. First, for locals especially, it is wise to look into bike lanes. A decade ago such considerations might have been laughable, but bicycling has become an established, healthy activity enjoyed by young and old alike.

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Bike lanes themselves do not require too much effort to install—just a careful plan and some street painting—but they add much to a city. Besides making bicycling safer for residents, numerous studies show that bike lanes make drivers more aware of their surroundings and can help decrease car speeds. In short, they can be good for everyone. Ideally, the city should provide a network of bike lanes throughout town, although an obvious early destination would be Friendship Park, as it is already a destination for outdoor activity. Second, the city should consider cutting some walking trails through the brush near the softball side of the park, assuming the city owns the land. Such an area would give joggers and walkers a bit more privacy than is now afforded in the parking lot and, like bike lanes, walking trails—especially rugged trails—do not require much maintenance. Finally, if we’re to depend on the park as a regular softball and baseball tournament destination, we urge the city’s code enforcement to vigorously patrol Haugh Avenue and Memorial Boulevard and cite businesses that violate the city’s sign laws and allow overgrown weeds and grass.

Creating a beautiful public park is fine, but we must take care that the park’s beauty isn’t diminished by trash, weeds and ugly signs.