By Emily Williams
In early 2019, the site that is now Cahaba Heights Park was simply a space to play baseball, a couple of fields in need of repair.
This summer, the space has been redesigned and reopened to serve as a multi-faceted park for people across age groups and interests.
The city of Vestavia Hills had been planning to breathe new life into the athletic facility for years through its Community Spaces plan.
City officials and community members gathered Aug. 14 with social distancing measures in place to cut the ribbon on the newly reopened facility.
“Now you can exercise, picnic, practice baseball skills, enjoy parties,” said city manager Jeff Downes. “To say the least, in the near future, you can exercise your dog, as well as enjoy senior programming in a new facility.”
The athletic facility on site consists of four turf baseball fields named after local families: Fox, Kelly, Reese and Moss.
A new, inclusive playground, designed by Williams Blackstock Architects, features a large play structure, swings, a freestanding climbing structure and a Hyper Shade to provide an escape from the sun. There is also a sizable green space for community members to enjoy the outdoors.
Before the grand opening, the park was open to youth baseball leagues and children visiting the playground.
“Casual visits will shed light on the fact that the Cahaba Heights community really desires and appreciates nice green space,” Downes said.
While at the park over the past few weeks, Downes has noticed children exploring the playground.
In addition, the baseball fields have played host to two youth baseball tournaments, which Downes noted were well received by the community. “This is the launchpad for many such opportunities to enjoy this reworked recreation center,” he added.
“New” New Merkel
The final phase for the park will be the completion of a dog park and the construction of the new New Merkel House, a new building adjacent to the park that will serve as a senior center.
The project went to bid this summer and construction began this month. It is projected to be complete in January.
“The new building will modernize the senior facility opportunity and offer a multi-use opportunity for the entire community,” Downes said.
The single-story building will offer large meeting rooms, offices and a programming room.