Bulldozers are blazing and John Hunt Park is going through its most significant overhaul in decades. It’s a big milestone for community leaders who’ve been trying to renovate this old airport into a recreation paradise since the last plane landed in the late 1960s.
Recent renovations under way on the southeast corner of the park are converting the former golf course into new recreation options. That includes a manicured cross-country course, rugged mountain bike trail and challenging disc golf. Adjacent to the former golf course, on the site of an old east-west runway, sand volleyball courts are under construction.
We want John Hunt Park to be the City’s central playground, and we’re well on our way.”
When complete this summer, John Hunt Park will have a new look – one that’s sporty and befits a recreation mecca.
What to expect
CROSS COUNTRY: Multiple configurations will be available for the new cross-country running course, which can accommodate a 10K race for men’s and women’s track and field at the high school and collegiate level.
UAH is impressed and has already reserved the course to host its conference cross-country championships in 2019. Runners can expect to traverse a well-maintained path around the perimeter of this picturesque area of the park.
“The cross-country course is a grass track planted with Bermuda and cut like a fairway so it will be fast for the runners,” said Steve Ivey, Director of Parks & Recreation. “It will have gradual inclines, bordered with shrubs, so it’s not wide open to the overall park.”
One day in the not too distant future, John Hunt Park will be one of the greenest areas of the City.”
MOUNTAIN BIKING: Next to the protected running course, mountain bikers will have their own four-mile timed course to use for competition and play, an exciting feature for those who desire a challenging but more controlled environment.
SAND VOLLEYBALL: Volleyball enthusiasts will be excited to see the 12 new sand courts prepped for action. There will also be a disc golf area and room for a future driving range.
TENNIS CENTER EXPANSION: On the southwest corner of John Hunt Park, the Tennis Center just finished construction on six new rubico courts, bringing the total number of lighted playing courts to 30.
FESTIVAL SITE: Cross over to the northern end of the park, crews have been busy creating a festival site, installing stormwater, drainage systems, roads and lighting.
“The festival site may be one of the biggest surprises,” said Ivey. “Outdoor events have grown to the point that it’s difficult for the City and organizations to handle all the logistical space and traffic requirements that come with managing large crowds. This site will have plenty of space, restrooms and lighting – a blank slate for special events with plenty of parking.”
TREES & MORE TREES: Ample parking aside, it’s been a primary goal of the City to reduce the asphalt from the old runways at John Hunt and create a greener environment. Green Team has led the way in planting hundreds and hundreds of hardwood trees around the park to create a future shade canopy.
“Our annual tree-planting days at John Hunt have been well supported by civic groups and local businesses,” said Joy McKee, Director of Landscape Management. “Citizens helped donate funds for us to purchase quality species of trees, and one day in the not too distant future, John Hunt Park will be one of the greenest areas of the City.”
All of the work is being performed in John Hunt Park is a coordinated effort between a number of municipal departments. The total cost for this phase of construction is about $9 million. The costs would have been much higher if City departments had not jumped in to help save money by managing a lot of the drainage and prep work, tearing up the old cart paths and buildings as well as removing some trees in the footpath of trails and planting new ones.
When this round of renovations is complete, the City will embark on the next series of upgrades and additions – two new multi-purpose playing fields, Kids Space renovations with shade canopies, a skateboard park and bike jump course.
Even so, Ivey says there’s more to come.
“This has been Mayor Battle’s vision guided by a lot of public input,” said Ivey. “We want John Hunt Park to be the City’s central playground, and we’re well on our way.”