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There was no hiding one Kingston official’s excitement about a half-million-dollar makeover at the city’s only non-waterfront park.
“It’s a win-win-win-win-win,” said Rick Ross, the city’s park and recreation director, over the news about Porter Park this week.
Owned by the county until it was turned over to Kingston in February, it had been one of the city’s most neglected public spaces.
After the transfer, the city got to work on grant applications, and won a 50-50 matching grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Kingston can get up to $250,000 if the city spends that much — or provides that much in in-kind work.
“We had wanted to do something out there for a long time,” City Manager David Bolling said after the $250,000 state grant was announced this week. “We want to really make a nice park out of it.”
Before the transfer, all Kingston could do was maintain the property — not invest in improvements.
The park, which sits behind the NAACP headquarters in Kingston, has a few amenities now. Work could begin this fall to expand and improve upon those.
Kingston is expected to use the money to build a new ball field with dugouts and bleachers, and add soccer fields, a basketball court and a playground.
Restroom and parking facilities and a nice walking path are part of the plan, according to Ross.
To get the most bang for its buck, the city has plans for multi-purpose ballfields there.
“It’s not a huge piece of property, but we’ll use every square inch of it,” Bolling said.
That will help relieve the pressures of crowding at other city parks, he said.
“We’re overflowing,” Ross agreed —something that is evident to anyone visiting Fort Southwest Point during any youth-league season.
Bolling said state officials will be meeting with city officials soon to work out the contract. After signing, it has 120 days to start the work.
Bolling is hoping that work can begin this fall and be done by spring.
“It’ll be pretty quick,” he said. “We’ll be ready to move.”
“We think its something that will be a good addition to our park system,” he added. “That’s what we’re looking at — to do it right.”
Porter Park is named for Gertrude Porter, the principal of the African-American school that now houses the local NAACP.
“It’s really cool to give her name a legacy,” Ross said.