GILMER聽性视界传媒斅燘etter city parks are what the people of Gilmer want, said City Manager Greg Hutson. And better parks are what they性视界传媒檙e getting.

And although the cost of improving the city性视界传媒檚 parks system has increased, community members say they性视界传媒檙e determined to raise the funds needed for new playground equipment, athletic fields and park buildings that will improve the quality of life in this Upshur County town.

性视界传媒淭his city has waited long enough, and the community is rallying around this,性视界传媒 Hutson said. 性视界传媒淭he community will like what they get and what they see.性视界传媒

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Dilapidated athletic facilities at Gilmer City Park are shown Thursday. (Jordan Green/性视界传媒 Photo)

As part of a 2018 master plan to revitalize Gilmer性视界传媒檚 parks system, the city plans to spend millions of dollars building new baseball, softball and soccer fields, tennis courts, batting cages, playground equipment, lighting systems and buildings at Gilmer City Park, which adjoins the East Texas Yamboree grounds.

Work also is wrapping up at Abney Park, a small neighborhood park on the southwest side of the city. That park will have new playground equipment, parking lots and bathrooms, Hutson said.

City residents overwhelmingly support upgrades to the parks system, which hasn性视界传媒檛 been changed substantially since the 1970s, said John McWhorter, president of the city性视界传媒檚 Parks Advisory Board. The city性视界传媒檚 parks have become dilapidated, and some playground equipment and other park infrastructure have become unsafe, city leaders said.

性视界传媒淚t性视界传媒檚 time for them to be replaced for the children,性视界传媒 McWhorter said.

But while park development has been a dream of Gilmer's residents and leaders for years, funding for the improvements is short.

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New playground equipment is shown at Abney Park in Gilmer on Thursday. (Jordan Green/性视界传媒 Photo)

The city issued roughly $6.5 million in bonds to help finance work at Abney and Gilmer City parks, Hutson said. The Gilmer City Park project originally was estimated to cost roughly $5.7 million, but that figure has increased by roughly $2 million because of inflation and changes to the project plan. The cost of work at Abney Park increased from roughly $425,000 to $900,000.

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City leaders had planned work at Roosevelt Park but chose to reallocate that funding to Abney and Gilmer City parks, Hutson said. He also considered cutting some hoped-for features from the Gilmer City Park rebuilding plan to reduce the cost. But Parks Advisory Board members want the park to be as nice as it can be, so they性视界传媒檝e set out to raise the money to make it so, Hutson said.

In the next two weeks, board members will unveil a fundraising plan that relies on donations and sponsorships to bridge the funding gap.

The committee needs to finalize details of the plan聽性视界传媒 including the final amount of money needed聽性视界传媒 but it should be announced publicly in the next two weeks, said Brandon Dodd, who is overseeing the Parks Advisory Board性视界传媒檚 fundraising efforts.

Dodd said community members are enthusiastic about the project, and residents and business leaders are 性视界传媒渕ore than generous性视界传媒 when the community has a 性视界传媒渞eal need.性视界传媒

"This community has continued to come together and say, 性视界传媒楾his is what we want, and this is how we want to do it,性视界传媒櫺允咏绱綕 Dodd said. 性视界传媒淚t could be downsized, but we don't want it to be unless we have to.性视界传媒

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Gilmer City Manager Greg Hutson looks at a map of Abney Park in Gilmer. The park has been modernized as part of a master plan overhauling the city's parks system. (Jordan Green/性视界传媒 Photo)

Hutson said he性视界传媒檚 impressed by the board members性视界传媒 confidence that they性视界传媒檒l find the money needed for the work.

With a population of around 5,000, Gilmer has a number of restaurants and other amenities to draw people and businesses to the community, Hutson said. But residents often travel to other cities to use their parks, such as Longview性视界传媒檚 Lear Park, a 182-acre regional sports complex that has boosted tourism in the city.

By investing in Gilmer性视界传媒檚 parks system, Hutson said he hopes families will choose to stay in town for picnics, recreation and outdoor enjoyment. The addition of athletic facilities will benefit the city性视界传媒檚 youth athletic teams, too, he said.

Even though much of the work at Gilmer City Park can性视界传媒檛 move forward until funding is finalized, new playground equipment will be installed there this summer, Hutson said. The city also hopes to receive a $750,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help pay for the project.

性视界传媒(The work) may be over a period of time depending on how much money comes in to finish it out," Hutson said. "But we're committed to the citizens of this community to try and give them the best parks they can have.性视界传媒

Jordan Green is a Report for America corps member covering underserved communities for the News-Journal. Reach him at jgreen@news-journal.com.听

Report for America Corps Member, 性视界传媒

Howdy! I'm Jordan Green, a Report for America corps member covering underserved communities in East Texas for the 性视界传媒. I'm a native Okie and have been a newsman since 2017. Email me at jgreen@news-journal.com or call me at 903-237-7743.