Despite rain pouring down Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Wayne Willis had no problem pointing out the trees, brush and fence he hopes to knock back next week for the first phase of his project to give the park a face-lift. Willis plans to make the park more visible from the Chief Ladiga bike trail, giving riders and walkers between Anniston and Jacksonville a more pleasant view into the city.
“Instead of people just passing by on the trail, it’ll be an entranceway,” Willis said. “Because we don’t want people passing by Weaver, we want them to stop and stay.”
With a picnic area, playground, tennis and basketball courts, Raymond C. Elwell Park, or Weaver Park as it’s more commonly known, is Weaver’s most inviting asset, Willis said. But that doesn’t mean that like much of the city, it couldn’t use some work, he said.
“This is the jewel of the city,” Willis said. “We don’t have a lot else. Why not expand on it?”
If the park is a symbol of Weaver, then Willis hopes his pet project will be the symbol of his and the newly elected council’s tenure — taking a more proactive approach in developing Weaver.
“We’re trying to get away from doing things just because that’s the way it’s always been done,” Willis said. “We can’t just accept that; we need to be a little more progressive.”
For years, doing things the way they’ve been done meant, at least for the park, making minor repairs when necessary. Judy Hall, a license clerk who’s worked for the city for 27 years and has lived next to the park for four years, said there haven’t been any renovations to the park since the early 1980s.
“There’s been some landscaping here and there,” Hall said. “But nothing major like this.”
Joey Conger, Weaver’s public works director, said the project’s length will be a matter of how effectively workers can use the city’s limited resources. A newly purchased dump truck will help out, he said, but with only eight employees, he said he’ll have to find a way to best use everyone’s time.
“We may cut for a few days and find out it’ll only be three or four days,” Conger said. “But if other stuff comes up, it might take us a couple weeks.”
Either way, Willis said he hopes removing the trees will be just the first step in his dream project of renovating the park.
The second phase of the project — which includes building a new pavilion area, updating all the playground equipment, and adding a splash park and dog-walk area — will depend on whether Willis can secure a municipal bond of at least $1 million, of which $300,000 will go toward park improvements, he said.
The rest of the bond money will be used to buy equipment and make improvements to Jacksonville Street. Willis said he won’t know if the city is in position for such a bond until after he receives the final report next week from Weaver’s audit.
Willis said the park project is just one of the improvements he and the council are working on to make Weaver more outdoor-friendly and more attractive. The city is installing two new welcome signs next week, and a larger project is under way to bring practice mountain bike trails to the city.
“I think Weaver’s in good shape for this,” Willis said. “And I think it’s about time we did this, too.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.