Improvements planned for Frayser and Raleigh parks, but residents wonder when

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some major, multi-million dollar park overhauls are set for Frayser and Raleigh, but the question now becomes — when?

The plan for the overhauls at Rodney Baber Park and John Kennedy Park have been in the works for quite a while after Shelby County was awarded a large grant in 2016 following the historic, catastrophic floods in 2011.  A portion of the money the county was awarded was set aside to help the parks.

"It's a huge park. Great opportunities for our families to picnic and our kids to play," community activist Thurston Smith said, referencing the sprawling landscape of Rodney Baber Park in Frayser.

When you step foot in the large park it's clear the place has seen better days.

The multiple baseball fields are full of weeds and overgrown, and part of what looks to be a parking lot is flooded, too.

"It's just sitting here, dwindling away. When we have the resources to do something about it," Smith said.

When Smith refers to resources he's talking about a $60 million federal grant Shelby County was awarded in 2016 for its Greenprint for Resilience project, part of a National Disaster Competition Resilience Grant.

It includes projects along Big Creek, Wolf River and South Cypress Creek, three areas that suffered from major flooding in 2011. Smith is frustrated because it's now spring of 2019 and the parks still haven't seen improvements.

"The longer this park goes unkempt that increases the probability for this park becoming a safe haven for crime and gangs and drug use."

On paper the plans for the parks are elaborate. Historic flooding in 2011 destroyed Rodney Baber's electrical infrastructure. Added dirt, lots of added dirt will raise areas of the park above floodplain.

Once infrastructure repairs are made, there will be improved recreational facilities, a fishing lake, walking trails and upgraded sports fields.

A few miles down the road at John Kennedy Park, there will also be added flood protection, as well as upgraded soccer fields and walking trails.

Reporting from The Commercial Appeal more than a year ago, following a community meeting regarding the grant and proposed changes in January of 2018, said construction should start between spring and fall of 2019.

Smith believes the people in living in the neighborhoods surrounding the dilapidated parks deserve answers sooner, rather than later.

"I don't think the community was expecting the park to be revitalized immediately however we have to be kinda reasonable about this. The county did receive these funds in 2016 and so we're expecting something," he said.

Portions of the multi-million dollar grant is going to other areas and projects in the county as well.

A spokesperson with Shelby County said it was their understanding they aim to start work late this year and the design phase of the project is about 90% complete but not ready for release.

If you would like to learn more about the grant and different plans for parts of the county click here.

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