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Imagine being able to kayak through the rapids during the day, have a picnic, and then walk to hear your favorite band at the Orion Amphitheater.
Sound a bit far-fetched? Actually not.
Plans are underway to add rapids to Apollo Park, home of the newly opened Amphitheater in Mid-City Huntsville.
“It won’t be the rapids of Nantahala, but it will be an opportunity for people to get in the water and paddle their canoes or kayaks around,” said Huntsville Parks and Recreation Director James Gossett. “I think it’s going to be a great experience.”
The Apollo Park improvements are among 12 parks and recreation projects underway or in the planning stages, Gossett said during an event Wednesday declaring July Parks and Recreation Month in Huntsville.
:Some of them are as small as playground drainage projects,” he said. “And some of them are Joe Davis-sized projects. They are all over the spectrum and all over town. It’s not just one place.”
It’s all part of an expansion in which the city has spent more than $100 million over the past decade to improve the park and recreation system, Gossett said.
The city of Huntsville has 60 parks, 15 recreation and community centers, 100 sports fields and over 50 miles of trails and greenways with activities from sand volleyball to skateboarding, dog parks to disc golf and soon: kayaking and whitewater canoeing.
“We continue to look at different spaces and the different needs of our community,” Gossett said.
The addition of rapids isn’t the only improvement coming to Apollo Park.
“In conjunction with Arts Huntsville, we’re also launching outdoor fitness,” he said. “It’s really going to be a great amenity there.”
Gossett said the city is finalizing the design of the park.
“There was pre-construction done,” he said. “We’re hoping that later this year we’ll see that start.”
Construction on another park, Legacy Park, will begin much earlier.
“Some of the contractors have already been on site,” Gossett said. “We expect by the end of the month you’ll start seeing construction.”
Legacy Park, in north Huntsville, is being built on the site of the former Johnson High School and will be connected to the Johnson Legacy Center, which opened in 2020.
“It’s going to be a multi-use park with a playground, walking trails, a little outdoor entertainment space,” Gossett said. “There will also be one of the fitness parts there. We have four of them that we will put in parks scattered throughout the city.
The park, which will be a transformation of the old high school parking lot into a green space, is expected to open next spring.
At John Hunt Park, work is underway on the new Get-A-Way Skatepark, renovation of the Kids’ Space and creation of an 18-hole disc golf course. The championship field expansion will add two synthetic turf fields for soccer and lacrosse.
The site with the skate park and Kids’ Space will be remodeled, Gossett said.
“We’re going to have a new parking lot there, new lighting, it’s going to be a brand new area from what people are used to seeing,” he said.
Renovation of Joe Davis Stadium is scheduled for spring 2023.
“We’re really excited about Joe Davis Stadium,” Gossett said of the former home of the Huntsville Stars Major League Baseball team off South Memorial Parkway. “It will be a multi-use facility. It will address several different needs in the community with what we believe will be a professional soccer team here in Huntsville. We believe this will happen. We have high school football that could be there. You have lacrosse that can be there. We can serve and meet the needs of multiple groups there.”
City Administrator John Hamilton said residents “are blessed to be in a community that has the opportunity to make these kinds of investments and really focus on quality of life for our community.”
“What I would like us to do is take this declaration (of Parks and Recreation Month) as a challenge as a community to continue to identify these needs and wants and desires for quality of life infrastructure and continue every single year to make improvements and development of that infrastructure,” he said.
The city highlights several events throughout the month, including:
- Community Chalk Art Festival – Friday, July 15, 5:30 p.m.: Taking place in Big Spring Park in tandem with the Downtown Huntsville Inc. Food Truck Rally, residents can grab dinner and enjoy live music while creating their own masterpiece of chalk art near the Huntsville Museum of Art.
- Fun and Reading Day – Tuesday, July 19, 9-10:30 a.m.: Children of all ages are encouraged to visit the Dr. Robert Sherney Heritage Center at 3011 Sparkman Drive NW to enjoy interactive storytelling by Huntsville-Madison County Public Library staff. Kids can also cool off with free ice skates, water games and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
- Concert on the Green – Saturday, July 30, 5:00 p.m.: Parks and Rec Month will wrap up with live music and more at SR Butler Green, located in Campus 805. Music will begin at 6:00 p.m.
Other events include an artist symposium, a family movie night and a men’s mentorship event at Top Golf. More details can be found at Huntsville Parks and Recreation Facebook page. All activities are free.
“Parks and Recreation Month is a great time to highlight our excellent parks and recreation facilities while honoring our hard-working employees who serve the public,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Whether you like to swim, run, bike or play pickleball or beach volleyball, our facilities offer something special for all of our citizens.”