Hughes Park project getting off the ground

The first update on the yet-to-be-built Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park was given to the West University City Council on Monday.

The update was presented by Tim O’Connor, the city’s Park and Recreations Director. The property, located at 6446 Sewanee, was a gift to the city from the late James Hughes. In order to accept the donation — including an additional $200,000 — West U had to adhere to Hughes’ stipulations.

The first stipulations was that the park be named in honor of Hughes’ mother, Elizabeth Hughes. The second was that the property be developed as passive, open green space with no sport or play features.

Essentially a ‘quiet’ park.

The city attorney and the Hughes estate attorney in conjunction with Mayor Susan Sample are in the process of finalizing the transfer of the property to the city. The stipulations that Hughes’ asked for are a blessing, according to O’Connor.

“The conditions of Mr. Hughes’ donation promises to make the design and development phase much less complicated,” said O’Connor,  “than if there were no conditions whatsoever.”

The council did take action after the presentation in appointing 20 residents, whom the parks department recommended, to the Jenni Elizabeth Hughes Park Citizens Task Force.

The large number appointed to the task force is unusual, said O’Connor. He added that task forces and committees tend to have approximately 11 members. Council member Mardi Turner is one of the members and will act as a liaison between the task force and council.

The task force will be involved in the final design recommendations on the park.

“We feel this is a very manageable group,” said O’Connor at the meeting. “With all due respect about 70 percent of this group are either medical doctors or attorneys, so the probability of their professional schedules allowing them to attend all of the meetings is probably slim.”

The task force is expected to meet five times, with one of those being a town hall meeting. The parks department has set up an update system for residents interested in being kept up to date. Currently, O’Connor notes, 65 residents are signed up to receive updates.

O’Connor said the parks department talked to the community around the property, some of whom have signed up to receive updates, and they had concerns about the property being turned into a park.

Their primary concerns were with increase traffic, parking, and increased crime activity.

“The traffic and parking concern should be non-issue as the condition of the donation will drive the design and the park will be passive in nature and the city will not schedule any events or activities that will make it a destination park,” said O’Connor.

He added that the increased crime activity is a non-issue.

“Over the course of at least the last 13 years there have been no serious incidents of crime at any of our neighborhood parks or recreational facilities,” said O’Connor.

Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park  is still two years away from a dedication but the first steps to get there were taken on Monday.

Below is a tentative timeline of the this project.

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