STOCKBRIDGE – While Cochran Park’s baseball fields remain closed, some individuals are still hopeful that the park and its baseball fields could re-open under new ownership in the future.
Craig Powell, one of the coaches at Cochran Park, said he and fellow coaches have started a committee to explore keeping baseball at the park.
“For starters, we got together and formed a committee for whenever we are able to open the park back up,” Powell said. “It’s a committee of five, and we’re just looking to better Cochran. You know, have a future for the kids.”
Powell said conversations have gone on concerning possibly taking over the park, but he said they are waiting for decisions made by city and county officials before going forward.
Powell said that the city of Stockbridge has said they can’t just take the park before figuring out what to do with it.
“To be honest, we haven’t had any response from the county, but the city has been real helpful,” Powell said. “They’ve been giving us a lot of information, they’ve been straight up front with us, they’ve let us know they can’t just grab the park. They have to know the expenses, the budget to keep it going.”
At last Tuesday’s town hall meeting put on by State Senators Brian Strickland and Emanuel Jones, Cochran Park was a hotly-discussed topic, and a topic that received plenty of support from Stockbridge officials.
“That means a lot to us, and not just the coaches, but when we relay the message back to the team moms, where they can relay the message to the kids, that it’s not in stone that the park’s closed,” Powell said. “We’re doing what we can, the way things are going, we should hear things in the next week, but we don’t plan on dragging it out. We want a resolution as soon as possible.”
Bruce Holmes, the commissioner who represents the area, said he hadn’t heard anything concerning private individuals taking over the park, but said the offer to give the park to the city of Stockbridge remained on the table.
“We’ve offered the park to Stockbridge for free,” Holmes said. “To be honest, I don’t really expect to hear anything from Stockbridge, as they don’t make decisions easily. I don’t anticipate Stockbridge moving forward with the park, even though the offer is still on the table.”
The park was closed several weeks ago after county officials discovered a sinkhole in the parking lot of the facility. Since then, that area of the parking lot has been blocked off with orange cones.
“Based on where we are, and knowing now there is water under the surface of the park, and these potholes continue to develop, we’ve determined it’s dangerous to the public to keep the park as it is,” Holmes said.
When the park was closed, the county announced that the baseball leagues that play at Cochran would move to Hidden Valley Park, in the Fairview area of Henry County. Signs outside Cochran’s entrance advertise baseball leagues playing at Hidden Valley Park.
Holmes said the county will move forward with plans to repurpose the park.
“We’ll move forward and repurpose the park to something that’s safe in an area that most people in the county will be able to enjoy,” Holmes said. “It’s not just a seasonal park anymore.”
Holmes said that while he didn’t have an exact figure on how much the county has spent on maintaining the park in the past, he said that in SPLOST IV, around $600,000 was earmarked for maintenance of Cochran Park, while none was earmarked for Hidden Valley Park.
Those funds were spent on new lighting, scoreboards and other investments.
On Tuesday, Randy Knighton, Stockbridge city manager, said the city is in the process of “trying to obtain information” about the park, including an analysis concerning the park’s infrastructure.
“Then, we’d be able to make some informed determination about it,” Knighton said.
Assistant City Manager Camilla Moore said the city was on a fact-finding mission concerning the park as well, in an effort to inform residents of the park’s condition.
Elton Alexander, perhaps the leading voice on the Stockbridge City Council working to keep the park open, said on Tuesday that the city of Stockbridge would do “what’s in the best interest of citizens.”
“We will not sit by idly and allow Cochran to be closed,” Alexander said.
Alexander said if it becomes necessary for the city to take the park over, the city would likely do an in-depth engineering study to see what the city would need to do to take care of the park, but said the “proper thing” to do would be for the county to maintain the park.
“We believe firmly that the county should do the right thing and take the tax revenue they’ve been collecting all along,” Alexander said. “That’s what the voters approved in the SPLOST. They said they spent that much on lighting, but the park has gone decades without a substantial reinvestment.”
Alexander said he wanted to see documentation of where the $600,000 was spent.
On Tuesday evening, coaches and players from Cochran Park were expected to hold a rally in support of the park just prior to the Henry County Board of Commissioners meeting in McDonough.