The reaction of some residents that the City of East Ridge intends to spend more than $2 million to make upgrades in Camp Jordan Park was surprising.
Much of the criticism centered around city officials ignoring the extensive parks and recreation plan that emphasized providing more recreation opportunities away from Camp Jordan. That plan incorporated the building of pocket parks, a dog park, tennis courts, green spaces, a splash pad, basketball courts and such in the center of the city. An official with Southeast Development District, when he presented the plan said that city officials wanted him to focus on recreation outside of Camp Jordan.
These upgrades have nothing to do with the comprehensive recreation plan. They are completely outside of that.
Many of these opportunities may be on the way falling under the building of the “Town Center” around City Hall near Tombras Avenue. The City Council has approved the hiring of an architect/planner for just such a project. That’s as far as it’s gotten.
Some of our residents seem to be fed up with spending money in Camp Jordan. It doesn’t matter what the spending is for. In my opinion, some of the proposed spending to upgrade the park is legitimate. The bathrooms in the 40-year-old park are disgusting. They need to be replaced. New fencing for some of the fields? I’m going to defer to the director on that one. Artificial turf on the Weldon Osborne Stadium? That’s a different kettle of fish. Stone facades on structures for continuity? It’s cosmetic.
I think much of the animosity coming from social media is that lavish spending on Camp Jordan does little to benefit the everyday lives of residents of East Ridge. Aside from the two-mile walking track on the perimeter of the park, a small playground adjacent to the pavilion and the pond in which to fish, what other facilities are open on a daily basis for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and the kids to go and enjoy.
One person on social media said if you needed to use a restroom at the park you were out of luck. They are locked … and not just the ones at the pavilion in the middle of the RV park. Oh, by the way, the RV park is going away. Apparently, the water system is in such disrepair that it has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t know about you but I don’t have an RV. If I did, I sure wouldn’t haul it to Camp Jordan.
Let’s face it, folks, Camp Jordan is not a park, it’s a sports complex. First, the city leased many of the soccer fields to the Chattanooga Football Club. That area, by and large, is controlled by an outside group. The baseball and softball fields, the lasts time I looked, had padlocks on the gates. They are open to league play. You can’t go shoot hoops at Camp Jordan Arena. At this time of year it’s taken over by indoor soccer leagues.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Camp Jordan, as a sports complex/entertainment venue, is a draw for people coming into our city to participate in sports tournaments or go to the gun show, coin show or Bug-a-palooza. While they are here, they presumably spend small fortunes with local businesses – see economic impact study commissioned by Parks & Recreation Department.
It’s a draw, no doubt about it. Are the city coffers overflowing with sales tax dollars generated by Camp Jordan? I’m not an economist. I can’t tell you a number.
And speaking of numbers … How much money does the City of East Ridge budget EVERY year to Camp Jordan Park? The best I can tell that number is about $1.2 million. I’ll be honest with you, I went to the City’s Website to get more specific figures and I just couldn’t find them. The most recent financial report was from May 2017.
The long and the short of it is this, the City doesn’t directly make money on operating Camp Jordan Park. It loses money, lots of it, each and every year on its investment. City officials say that no city in the country makes a profit on its parks and recreation department. I believe that. I know the city benefits financially from people visiting the park and spending money in East Ridge. But how much? I don’t believe anyone can give you an actual number.
I do know this … many residents of East Ridge are unhappy with elected officials consistently pouring money into a park, one park, that falls short in providing them with recreational opportunities on an every day basis.
It’s high time that the East Ridge City Council see to it that a Town Center that includes more recreation for the RESIDENTS of East Ridge gets done.
Let’s focus more on the people who live here in providing them with a better city in which to work, live and play, and less on the people who simply come here to take advantage of Camp Jordan Park.