CLOVER -- The economy isn't helping the town as it prepares to expand Clover Community Park.
Clover leaders are in the final stages of planning the 50-acre expansion, which could include up to four soccer fields, four baseball fields, an 18-hole disc golf course and a splash pad, among other amenities. But it may be years before the nearly $2 million project comes to fruition.
"The plan is very ambitious," Town Administrator Allison Harvey said. "It will take us years to complete unless we get really, really, really lucky with grant funding, sponsorships and donations. It was going to be difficult even before the economy took a dive. Now, well, it's just very depressing."
Town leaders say the park expansion can't be Clover's priority right now.
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"We have to focus on absolute essentials before park enhancements," Town Councilman Bruce Henderson said. "No park is going to provide someone with water. No park's gonna provide someone with police service."
Henderson is going to encourage others on council to consider some cuts in the park plan.
"We're going to have to look at it hard," he said. "We're having to tighten our belts, just like everyone else, and we can't be spending out of an empty pocket."
According to a recent draft of the plan designed by engineers Withers and Ravenel, the park also will include:
• an amphitheater
• decorative fountains
• pond with fishing pier
• walking/fitness trails
• at least two playground areas
• quiet adult seating area with gliders
• rain garden
• two basketball courts
There also will be a concession area, ticket booth, baseball field tower, bathrooms, large parking lot and more.
Despite the economy's turbulent forecast, Harvey is enthusiastic about the plan that incorporates "a little something for everyone," she said.
"I especially like how we've highlighted the pond area," she said. "The walking trail goes around it. There are plenty of benches and gliders for passive enjoyment. ... Best of all, the pond is used as the backdrop to the amphitheater."
There may, however, be changes made at the request of council or depending on funding, Harvey said. Also, a layer of thick rock found throughout the park will create additional challenges and costs.
Council must approve the plan before construction begins, and Harvey expects at least one council workshop prior to a vote. It will likely be late spring before the project goes out to bid for construction.
Projects will be installed in shifts, with the first items being the baseball and soccer fields.
"We'll know more about how much we can do within the next year and when we can do it once the final concept is approved and we get underway with the actual engineering plans," Harvey said.
Regardless, the park should live up to the community's expectations.
"The only item that is missing that was mentioned a lot was a pool," Harvey said. "There's just no way to do it on this site because of the rock. The cost of the pool would be extraordinary."
A splash pad should fill some of that void, and is "very popular, much safer than a pool, and much easier to maintain," Harvey said.
Henderson hopes the town won't regret putting in a pool.
"Hindsight is 20/20," he said. "In the old part of the park we only had two ball fields when we should have put three or more. We could have had much more participation and hosted more tournaments had we put them in then. ... Since there's such a significant interest in the pool, I think we should go ahead and add it to the plan, even if it comes much later."
But others on council said it's too expensive and creates additional safety concerns.