By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
A new park in Laurel County is slowly coming together, and its construction is crossing paths with the new library expansion.
The Laurel County Wellness Park is a project which began in 2010 and is now only halfway complete, according to Director of Risk Management Rick Cochrane.
As the library began its expansion, it needed some dirt from the hill at the Laurel County Wellness Park’s location, according to city officials.
Incidentally, the park also needed dirt moved from that very hill for their bike park, so Hacker Brothers agreed to take dirt from the hill for the library “at kind,” meaning they would not charge the city or the county, and the nearness of the local dirt would save the library money in moving dirt for their expansion, officials said.
Cochrane said moving the dirt saved both the park and the library money, which was significant because the Laurel County Wellness park is in need of funds in order to be complete. The park will cost approximately $900,000 to complete and they have spent roughly $440,000 to date.
Cochrane said the park will mostly be funded through grants, and each grant has to be matched in cost by the county and city.
According to Cochrane, the park so far has received three grants, all from the Department of Local Government. The first grant for $50,000 helped build a skate park, which is now open. The second grant was a Recreational Trails Program Grant for $100,000 and it started the bike park.
The third grant is for $70,000. According to Cochrane, it is a Land and Water Grant for 2013 and it will help build a playground and a splash pad.
Though the skate park is open and a grant for the bike park has been received, the bike park still needs funds for bridges and ramps to allow bikers to cross the terrain, and a skills trail for younger bikers to enjoy.
The skills trail will cost about $55,000, Cochrane said.
The bike park already has nearly three miles of trails through the woods, according to Cochrane, and his goal is to eventually have off-road bike trails all the way to Levi Jackson State Park. This will help with London’s goal of becoming one of the number one biking locations in the country, Cochrane said.
Cochrane said he applied for a 2015 grant to help build three full-sized basketball courts, which will be the final installations for the park. After that, the park will still need money for restrooms, benches, picnic tables, grills and landscaping, which are not covered by grants. This money comes from public and private donations, Cochrane said.
The park is also trying to build a handicapped-accessible public restroom. This cannot be funded with grants, Cochrane said, and they have a fund open to raise the $15,000 needed to build the restroom. So far, about $300 has come in for this cause.
Cochrane said that public assistance is needed to complete funding for the things that would make the park nice, like the aforementioned restroom, signs, and decorative trees.
Cochrane said he hopes to have about 60 percent of the park open and operational by spring.
According to Cochrane, completion of the park is moving slowly because he wants it to be funded almost entirely by grants and the grant cycle is about one year, meaning that Cochrane has to wait about that long for each chunk of funding.
“It’s a lot of work to build a park,” Cochrane said. He added that the money and effort would be worth it, both for the tourism benefits and the benefits to local families.
Cochrane envisions a safe, family-friendly environment with lighting and nearby police to ensure the safety of families enjoying the park.
Cochrane said that mothers could even attend college at Somerset Community College and drop their children off right across the street at the park, where they could play safely. The Laurel County Wellness Park will have something to offer everyone, Cochrane said.
By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
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