#MyMGM: Play On
by Minnie Lamberth
May MBJ - Home
While Montgomery’s Parks and Recreation Department oversees the city’s numerous green spaces, its work doesn’t stop there. Multiple venues provide opportunities for residents and visitors to do much more than picnic and play, and coming upgrades and additions ensure Montgomery can continue to enhance quality of life and fill a key role in the city’s tourism efforts.
The City of Montgomery has nearly 50 properties under the oversight of its Parks and Recreation Department—providing a multitude of venues for sports, entertainment, meetings, reunions and other recreational activities. Whether you’re planning a tennis match, a nature hike, a midday picnic, a child’s birthday party, or a regional softball tournament, the city has a place for you. “The scope of the Department of Parks and Recreation is really about the overall wellness of the community,” said David Card, who was named director in April after serving as interim director since December.
With a broad array of community centers, parks and other facilities to visit, Montgomerians have numerous options for recreation and downtime. For example, Gateway Park on the southwestern side of the city offers fields for football and soccer as well as softball and baseball, plus a nine-hole course for golf outings. The park also has a lake large enough for water skiing and fishing, or visitors may opt for the walking trails and other gathering spots for family activities.
As another example, on the northeastern side, Lagoon Park is a multi-sport complex with softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, golf course, and walking trails. Facilities with these amenities don’t just serve locals looking for something to do but also organizations hosting tournaments. “The sports events are a byproduct of having the venues that we have in our town,” Card said, and as those events draw visitors to Montgomery, they bump up tourism dollars. “One of the things we’re reviewing now is how we continue to compete in tourism, to make sure we continue to drive business to the city,” Card said. And there’s a lot to work with, starting with such facilities as Cramton Bowl, Riverwalk Stadium, Paterson Field and the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex.
Plus, there are dozens of other sites across the city, including outdoor gathering spaces such as Ida Belle Young Park on Vaughn Road, Oak Park on Forest Avenue, and Buddy Watson Park on Taylor Road. The department also oversees venues along the Alabama River such as the Harriot II Riverboat, the Riverwalk Amphitheater and Riverfront Park.
For quite a few facilities, there are improvements on the horizon as part of the Montgomery Forward campaign announced in February by Mayor Steven L. Reed. “He’s committed several million dollars to uplift and improve our facilities on the athletic side,” Card said. This initiative to fund long-needed capital improvement projects will add enhancements at Lagoon Park and the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex that are scheduled to be completed by early next year—and are the type of investments that will support efforts to keep Montgomery competitive in recruiting tournaments.
Extensive renovations will be taking place as well at the Riverfront Amphitheater, which will see the additions of a children’s playable art area, covered pavilion, state-of-the-art lighting and new unrestrictive stadium seating. Along with upgrades to the splash pad, the amphitheater improvements will allow for more concerts, entertainment and arts events in this popular gathering area.
In addition, this past March, the mayor’s office announced the development of the Shady Street Trailhead and Park in north Montgomery, which will encompass a three-block linear park along Shady Street near the Alabama River. The development of the new park, expected to be completed this fall, is based on recommendations from a citywide planning document, the Envision Montgomery 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
According to the mayor’s office, the project is a partnership between the City of Montgomery and organizations like River Region Trails, Montgomery Rotary and the Montgomery Lions Club. The goal is to ultimately connect this park to the Riverfront Trail and add a new greenway.
Among other new developments, last November, the city broke ground on a 5,000-square-foot community center on Calmar Drive. When completed, the new center will offer activity space for senior citizens, students and others, in addition to providing meeting space for pre-K programming, workforce development and continuing education. The city’s 21 other community centers will also be getting upgrades, including new roofs, new windows and doors, exterior and interior painting, updated playground equipment and upgraded lighting as needed. New classroom and community spaces will be added as well, which can be put to use as new educational, recreation, health-related and job-training programs are provided at each center.