MILTON, Ga. – The purchase of 14 additional acres for Bell Memorial Park is cause for celebration for Hopewell Youth Association alumni members.
Past members of the association gathered at Milton’s City Hall Nov. 1 to talk about the park’s history and potential future.
The city has scheduled a meeting with residents at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Shannondale Farms, 2225 Birmingham Road in Milton. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the future of the park.
“We didn’t build this program for our kids,” said Chris Gillig, a former member. “We built it for the kids that came after them.”
The Hopewell Youth Association developed the baseball program at Bell Memorial Park in the late 1970s, when the park was described by frustrated parents as, “two crappy fields and not enough parking.”
“A group of parents took it upon themselves to start the program and ran everything from concessions to scheduling,” said Jim Cregge, Milton’s interim parks and recreation director.
Gillig said the park was like a second home to local children.
“Many kids started out coming with their parents to watch their brothers and sisters, then played themselves and came back to be umpires,” Gillig said.
The association started small, holding registrations for their 150 players at a Burger King on Ga. 9.
“Everything was done with notebooks and Excel spreadsheets,” said Tina Halinski, another former member. “It really was a just a group of parents who wanted a good, quality program for children.”
The original association members wanted to build a program to compete with Alpharetta’s Wills Park program, but initially had trouble garnering the support of Fulton County.
“Bob Fulton was instrumental in helping us,” Gillig said, “but we knew if it was going to work, we had to do it ourselves.”
The group officially became a nonprofit in the late 1990s, and began raising funds to build new fields and maintain the program in the early 2000s.
Within a few years, they had raised over $500,000, and the amount of registered kids doubled.
Former member Steve McPherson said parking was always a big problem.
“I hope with the park’s expansion, adequate parking is a top priority,” McPherson said.
Cregge said plans for the expansion haven’t begun, but a request for proposals for a design have been requested.
“We wanted to secure the land first,” Cregge said.
Cregge showed the former members a bird’s eye view map of the newly purchased land.
Scott Stachowski, a current Hopewell Youth Association board member, said about 1,000 children play baseball at this park throughout the year.
“The association is excited to see what the city has in store for the expansion,” Stachowski said.