JP Hudson

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2010

Upkeep issue creeps along at former little league park

By Billy Davis

Grass and weeds are growing high again at the former J.P. Hudson Park, continuing a nuisance that has plagued the pair of ball fields for some time.

Among the growing weeds, the concession stand and restrooms are still standing, though they appear to be in poor shape. Shreds of netting sway from poles.

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The little league association and its volunteer leaders, after building new facilities a half-mile north, have fielded complaints about the old park.

Many of those complaints have come from City of Batesville officials, when they react to grumbling from nearby residents.

The old park, used for decades for little league games, is located between Pollard Street and Boothe in north Batesville.

At the former ball park, the foot-high grass has yet to be cut in 2010, confirmed David Aven, president of the J.P. Hudson Memorial Park board of directors.

J.P. Hudson pays for the two ball fields to be bush-hogged once a month but the tractor driver has not started work, he said.

The ball fields have been used for practice in the past but were not scheduled for use this year, said Richie Craven, who is employed as part-time parks director for the association.

The issue of the park’s condition has simmered for several years. It climaxed in 2007 when the City of Batesville announced intentions to purchase the property from the South Panola Recreation Association.

City leaders, led by Mayor Jerry Autrey, envisioned replacing the scraggly property with a municipal park.

 But the city backed down months later, however, when park officials stepped in with intentions to take possession.

J.P. Hudson Park now possesses the property deed from the recreation association, said Batesville attorney Adam Pittman, who is performing the title deed work.

When city officials backed down, they were assured the old baseball park would be maintained and used for team practices.

“We want to see it taken care of and put to good use,” Alderman Bill Dugger told a park official at the time.

According to Aven, who said he was not on the board at that time, some clean-up work has been done. Ball field fences, dugouts and a pavilion have been torn down and removed, he said.

The old swimming pool has also been torn down and hauled away.

 “We’re focusing our energy on our newest ball fields,” Aven said. “In the future, when we have the resources, we will use the old park as practice fields.”

Park officials are attempting to maintain the new park with volunteer work, and with a lingering debt that leaves little extra money, said Batesville Alderman Teddy Morrow, a past president at J.P. Hudson.

The park’s debt stems from borrowing money to build the new ball fields, Morrow said. Aven, in a separate interview, said revenue from ball tournaments has “knocked down” much of the debt.

Asked about upkeep of the old park, Morrow recalled that City of Batesville workers cut grass and trimmed weeds last summer at the new park, when J.P. officials asked for urgent help on the eve of a large tournament.

“The parking lot got away from us and we needed help. It looked awful,” Craven recalled.

Two summer-time workers “have their hand’s full” maintaining the park’s seven ball fields and mowing the grounds, Craven further explained.  

This year, the city has agreed to use its manpower and equipment to spread gravel in the parking lots if J.P. Hudson purchases the materials, Morrow said.  

Three years after City of Batesville sought the old park, and Hudson Park got it, there is still lingering discussion about the city gaining ownership.

“I’d like to see the city get it,” Morrow said, with a contract stipulating that J.P. Hudson can use the ball fields for practice.

Aven, asked about the city gaining ownership, did not object to such a deal. “I wouldn’t count it out, but we definitely wouldn’t give it away,” he said.

According to Craven, he has discussed the issue with Morrow in the past with the understanding, like Aven, that J.P. Hudson would not give away the property.

“Right now we would have to win at Power Ball to do everything everybody wants us to do,” Craven said.  

The “next big project,” and an expensive one, is to pave the ball field’s white rock parking lots, he said.

If J.P. Hudson is paid for the old park property, “that would help tremendously,” said Craven.