3 new ballfields going into Henry Parker complex

Wicomico County is expected to have three more ball fields by spring 2018, finally putting to rest controversy about where to build them.

“The city has agreed to extend the property line at the existing Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, which is now the soccer field. What we are proposing to do is to build baseball diamonds on top of the soccer fields. We will relocate the soccer fields,” Steve Miller, director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism for the county, said.

New diamonds will be built on about six acres of land donated by the city.

Currently, there are four softball fields and one baseball field. Three total utility diamonds will be added, for both baseball and softball. The cost to reconstruct the fields will be less than $3 million.

It’s important that new ball fields are close to the original ones, Miller said.

“When the fields are in various locations and you’re going off to different places, you’re increasing labor, increasing operations that set up T-shirt sales, first aid, trainers, that sort of thing. The more distance you have between fields, the more expense and more logistical issues it presents,” Miller said.

In September 2015, County Executive Bob Culver, and others in favor, said they wanted softball fields constructed adjacent to the athletic complex, on forested land.

They contended softball tournaments would attract tourists who would boost the local economy by staying at hotels, eating out, filling up vehicles with gasoline and shopping.

The City Council held a public hearing on the matter and environmentalists crowded into the City Council chamber and spilled into the hallway, some emotional and all eager to speak. For more than two hours, City Council members listened as, overwhelmingly, there were pleas to save the forest.

When the final speaker finished, Mayor Jake Day, who was Council President at the time, called for a motion, but Council members fell silent. Day declared the matter dead and the room exploded in extended applause.

County officials were forced to find a new plan, but the matter is now settled and the county can expect that financial increase from tourists, Miller said.

“We’re thrilled to be able to move forward,” Miller said.

“We think it’s the right thing for the community. The county and city are working together for common good.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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