HAMLET — A ball park where legendary MLB outfielder Ty Cobb once played a game is now a vacant patch of land reclaimed by nature — but once the city decides how to fund its transformation, the park on the corner of Marlboro and Jefferson streets will make a return, of sorts.
“The first of 2016, we offered the property to the city, and the council — excluding myself, because I couldn’t vote on it since I’m on the council — turned down the offer,” said David Lindsey.
He and his wife Kim Lindsey, who live on adjacent property in a house built on the site of the historic James House, said the land has been in the family for generations. Despite the council’s initial decline of their offer, Lindsey said it came back up again.
“They came to me in the fall of 2016 with a change of heart and asked if it was still available, and I said it was,” he recalled. “I have not given them the property at this time. I had told them that we had to have a plan for putting money aside for the park first.”
Mayor Bill Bayless also expressed the need to have a plan in place before moving ahead.
“It’s got potential to be a small park,” Bayless said. “But at this point, not having any plans, we are tabling it until such time as we have an idea how much the city will have to contribute.”
City Manager Jonathan Blanton, at the recommendation of the council, is gathering some quotes he said he hopes to present at the April city council meeting.
“They asked for a quote on the parking lot, a quote on paving, a quote on clearing and quote on a fence to go along the Lindsey property line,” Blanton said.
When it is built, it won’t be a baseball field, according to Lindsey, but something more useful to people inside the city limits who want a safe place in a good part of town to get out and enjoy nature.
“We’re talking about a walking trail, green space area, just trying to keep it somewhat natural and have a place where people can go walking and kids can play Frisbee,” he said.
Ty Cobb once played ball on the same property.
“It was March 23, 1923,” Lindsey said. “There’s a couple of old newspaper clippings about it. Back then, there were no airlines, so they all traveled through on the trains back then and came through here by rail heading back up north after spring training.”
Lindsey said there are state and local funding options for getting the ball rolling on the walking trail, and the land will not exchange hands before estimates on the costs are gathered and compared and funds are secured.
“They’re looking for plans and looking at grant options, and we will use those to determine how much the city will have to appropriate,” he said. “We don’t have an idea at this point what it will cost.”
“Hopefully we’ll get this started,” Lindsey said. “We haven’t decided which way to go, but we’ll be moving forward. It would be good for the community. We have a lot of walkers. They sort of complain, when walking the sidewalks downtown, that they have to stop for traffic.”
He said what he has in mind is something similar to the experience people in Rockingham have at Eastside Cemetery — a “nice, safe place” to walk an even, maintained track and enjoy the company of others amid trees, yet right in the heart of the city.
“It should be about a quarter mile if we can get the funding,” he added. “It’d be a nice area with a place to park if people wanted to drive over there. Maybe we can have people make donations or buy a memorial bench.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673.