Thursday, January 18, 2001

Plan aims to revive Middletown park

Group raises funds for soccer fields

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — When David Pearce was growing up near Jacot Park in the 1960s and '70s, it was a haven for Soapbox Derby enthusiasts, with its hill and asphalt and track.

        Today, Mr. Pearce is working toward a revitalization of the 17.2-acre park — this time as a mecca for the 1,600 children involved in the Middletown Youth Soccer Association. He has taken on the task of raising about $750,000 to construct six unlighted practice and one lighted playing field in the park.

        Plans also call for a one-mile, 10-foot-wide asphalt walking trail, picnic shelters, restrooms and storage, off-street parking for 120 cars, a fenced playground area and a basketball court.

        Located on Middletown's east side, the park is bordered on the north by Tarrimore Circle, the east by Valley View Drive, the west by the Middletown Shopping Center and on the south by Grand Avenue. The project has the approval of the city's park board and the 25 families whose property abuts it.

        A plan last summer to turn the park into a senior citizen center and apartment complex was rejected. Neighbors fought it, preferring to keep the green space. Before beginning a fund-raising effort, Mr. Pearce showed preliminary design plans to nearby residents.

        “The plan satisfies everybody,” said Dick Blauvelt, whose Timber Trail property abuts the park. “What they've proposed is just a start. We'd like to enhance the property even more by planting trees along the walking path.”

        Already, Mr. Pearce has commitments for more than half the estimated cost. AK Steel is donating $250,000. The Middletown Community Foundation is providing $100,000 over four years, Bank One has pledged $50,000 and the soccer association is contributing $10,000.

        City Council will hold a public hearing at its Feb. 6 meeting before deciding whether to spend $250,000 on the project as requested.

        “There's such a need for this,” said Jim Kleingers, who grew up playing baseball at Jacot Park and who is now working on designs for the project. “At the time we were kids, soapbox derbies were the big thing. Now it's soccer.”

        Construction is expected to begin this spring, with soccer fields ready by the fall 2002 soccer season. The complex will be known as the AK Steel Fields at Jacot Park.

        Anyone interested in contributing cash, materials or labor to the project should call David Pearce, 985-5014, during work hours. Needed are carpenters to help build picnic tables, concrete, fencing, mulch and other materials or dirt moving equipment.


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