Crestwood Park

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Crestwood Park is a neighborhood park located on the north side of Crestwood Boulevard between 53rd and 55th Streets in the Crestwood community of Birmingham. The park features a fenced football-sized playing field with concrete bleachers and a field house on the north side; a jogging track around the field; tennis courts; a swimming pool; a playground; a barbecue pit with a picnic shelter; and a landscaped parking lot. The park is separated from Crestwood Boulevard by a drainage swale and a steep slope, crossed by a footbridge opposite 54th Street South.

Currently the park's athletic fields are used not only for youth football, but also by amateur soccer leagues such as the Liga Latinoamericana de Fútbol, and by the Magic City Lacrosse Club.

History

The city first purchased the property for a park in March 1946, paying $6,100.

In the 1960s the Crestwood Civic Club completed numerous projects to enhance the park. They added the park's football field in the early part of the decade. The fieldhouse, which was designed at the club's expense , was submitted to the city for assistance with the $30,000 needed to construct it. The club also programmed the park, sponsoring youth athletics and cheerleading as well as Scout troops. It sponsored an annual barbecue and a program of decorating the park for Christmas, including the "Santa Claus in Crestwood Park" event.

In 1990 a group of Crestwood North neighborhood residents led by Pride Forney formed the Friends of Crestwood Park to lead a campaign to revitalize the then-dilapidated park. The ongoing "Rennaissance" of the park and the neighborhood around it was celebrated annually from 1990 to 1993 with a "Rites of Spring" Festival with a maypole, artist's booths, dancers, jugglers, jesters, musicians, puppets and a mock jousting tournament.

Proceeds from the first two events were combined with city funds for a $100,000 project to replace the old barbecue pit with a new pavilion and patio and to redesign the parking lot to increase the number of spaces and to reduce the use of the park by sleeping truck drivers. The designs, which included handicap accessibility improvements, were drawn up by neighborhood vice-president and landscape architect Rip Weaver. The work was completed in 1992.

In 1996 the sprinkler system was repaired and the playing field was re-sodded with grass cut from Legion Field in preparation for its hosting early-round soccer for the 1996 Olympic Games. Mike Nix, President of the Crestwood Colts youth football program, led the project, which benefitted from funding by the neighborhood association and from discretionary funds earmarked by Birmingham City Council representative Jimmy Blake.

A second phase of improvements was undertaken in 1997. The track was resurfaced, and all-new playground equipment was installed in 1997 to designs by landscape architect Jeff Sexton. A concrete retaining wall encircles the "tot lot" and serves as park signage, visible from Crestwood Boulevard. The city-funded project was completed for $160,000.

After racist graffiti was hastily removed from the park that summer, an idea to commission a mural on the retaining wall near the tennis courts as a means of discouraging graffiti was approved.

Tension between neighborhood residents and the Crestwood Colts football program resulted in a list of demands which, according to some residents, went unmet two years later. A petition circulated asking the neighborhood association to vote on a resolution asking the Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board to withdraw the Colts' lease. In the Spring of 1999 Blake helped to negotiate a solution where the Colts and the neighborhood jointly established a coordinating committee to act as a liaison in communicating the concerns of each group. Specific actions to be taken included having a police officer oversee parking and enforce littering laws and ending the practice of broadcasting music over the park's public address system.

Though it had been the property of the city and used as a park since the 1940s, formal dedication as a public park did not take place until 2000.

On May 12, 2007 the park's playing field was rededicated as Claud Cotten III Memorial Field to recognize the contributions of Crestwood North neighborhood activist Claud Cotten, who promoted organized sports for decades and served on the board of the Crestwood Colts.

Beginning in 2004 a new master plan for the park's future was created by the Crestwood Park Improvement Committee. The committee conducted a needs assessment survey and worked with architect Jason Fondren, Parks & Recreation Board director Melvin Miller and Birmingham City Council representative Valerie Abbott to create a conceptual plan during a design charette held at Girls, Inc.. $2.4 million was allocated for improvements by the city in 2009 and detailed plans were drawn up by Macknally Land Design. Construction began in December 2011 and the park re-opened in September 2012.

References