COVINGTON - The Covington Police Department's shooting range could be the future site of a new Miracle Field.
The Newton County Recreation Commission is targeting the range, located on Williams Road near City Pond Park, for a field that will give disabled children the opportunity to play baseball, City Manager Steve Horton said during the City Council's Monday night meeting.
The council gave Horton an informal consensus to notify the county it can move forward with determining whether the site would be appropriate for the use.
"The main reason we're looking at the site is that all of our youth ball fields are (at City Pond)," Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said. "We need to try to keep that field there. We don't want to isolate them and make them feel like they're excluded. We want them to feel like they're included."
Also, "From a maintenance operations standpoint, it would be better to put it there," Hailey said.
If the deal goes through, the city will need to find another location for the shooting range, likely in an isolated spot at the city's land application facility located off Ga. Highway 36. Treated wastewater is sprayed onto fields at the facility, helping to grow the trees on the property that are eventually chopped down and sold as timber to help offset the cost of irrigation.
The cost of relocating the shooting range could run from $750,000 to $1 million, but the police department has more than enough funds through confiscated drug money to foot the bill, Horton said.
Also, the county is agreeable to providing in-kind services, such as grading, to ready the new site, he said.
The Miracle League field was initially included in plans for Chimney Park, a park that will be accessible to special needs children and adults, located behind Newton County Library.
The field was dropped from the Chimney Park plan following conversations with parents of special needs children, according Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk.
"As the design developed, we interviewed families with special needs and talked to the Miracle League Foundation. The foundation and these families agreed that their preference is for the special children to be playing at fields in ball parks with all the other children," Delk said.
If possible, the Recreation Commission would like to build two small ballfields adjacent to the Miracle Field for the department's 5- to 8-year-old teams, Hailey said.
At this point, it's not clear whether the field will be publicly or privately funded, though Hailey said it will likely be a combination of the two, adding that it will take "a total community effort" to build.
The first step is to determine whether the shooting range would be a suitable site for a field, Hailey said. Once a location is selected, fundraising efforts can begin, he added.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.