Hank Aaron Park on Southside is about to get a facelift thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The total grant is $15,000, with the TVA Community Care Fund and the Columbus Light and Water Department each kicking in another $7,500, said CLW General Manager Angela Verdell. CLW is putting in cash as a match, not in-kind labor.
“TVA came up with this in April 2020,” she said. “They were trying to provide some support for different communities that had really been impacted by COVID-19. The program provides matching funds for local power companies to support their communities.”
The funds are only available to nonprofits agencies, Verdell said.
Working with parks qualifies under the community enrichment category for the grant, she said.
“More people are doing things outside, and that pavilion at the park is a really good place for community meetings or enrichment activities for young people,” she said. “It’s a good hub for the community to meet up. It’s the closest park to us, and it’s a small park so whatever we do there will have a pretty big impact.”
Verdell said that constant activity at Hank Aaron, which is located at 601 12th Ave. S., was one of the things that made it an attractive target for the grant funds.
“In the summer months the Southside Community Group has an annual family reunion there for people who grew up on that side of town,” Verdell said. “I’ve seen car shows over there from time to time. The church next door had a community outreach there that they did a couple of months ago. It’s used on a small basis, but pretty frequently.”
Columbus Recreation Director Greg Lewis said the help is very much needed at Hank Aaron.
“It’s a small park with a basketball court, a baseball field, a pavilion and a playground,” Lewis said. “The pavilion out there is old. It needs a little TLC. We’re going to renovate the roof, which leaks and we’re going to paint it.”
The basketball court also needs a lot of help, he said.
“The court is just worn out,” he said. “It needs to be resurfaced, and we’re trying to figure out if we can put down some more asphalt or something. We’re also looking at new goals.”
Lewis said the court is heavily used.
“The people from the surrounding neighborhood shoot a lot of ball,” he said. “The Columbus Housing Authority is right down the street, and a lot of those residents go there too.”
The playground equipment will get fresh borders, he said, and safe material.
Verdell said benches and picnic tables will be added, as well.
“The tables that are there are really rickety,” she said. “There are going to be some actual trash bins that are supposed to stay out there.”
Lewis wasn’t sure when the city would get the money, or when work would begin.
“The council approved the grant (Tuesday) night,” he said. “Then CLW can take the final steps to get the money for us. It’s a small park, so once we get it the money will be well utilized.”
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.