Funding that initially would have gone to expand Lions Park has now been diverted to make improvements at Dysart Park.
Lions Park, regularly used for seasonal youth sports events, squeezes in 40 teams of youth baseball players onto three ball fields — along with their coaches and parents.
Fortunately, Lions Park has restrooms.
For Dysart Park, which can attract well over 10,000 visitors during the annual Stagecoach Days weekend, the city will divert the Lions Park designation from its 2017 application of $172,496 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the county to instead install permanent restrooms, a concession stand and wrought iron fending to replace the existing fencing at Dysart Park.
At the Dec. 11, 2018 council meeting, this year’s block grant from the county of $155,979 was approved to be used for Dysart Park improvements, in addition to the cancelled funding for Lions Park, for Dysart’s combined $328,475 in block grants.
The city estimates costs for the new fencing, permanent concession stands and restrooms to be $350,000.
It gave Stagecoach Days Committee president Amy Pippenger a sense of, well, relief.
Now her committee can use some of its $4,200 spent on 32 portable toilets (along with those delivered for use during the Stagecoach Days Parade and at the Second Street Dance) on other aspects of their weekend.
“Hopefully this will make Dysart Park more secure,” Pippenger says. “We’ve had so many break-ins” because there are not enough barriers against vandals and thieves.
According to Pippenger, Dysart Park has break-ins “all the time,” whether it is the regular damage to windows at the park’s main building, or the announcer booth’s air conditioning unit being stolen.
“Hopefully with more secure fencing there will be a better deterrent, so we don’t keep spending money on replacing the same things all the time,” Pippenger says.
Jim Price, a Banning planning commissioner who serves as president of the Banning Pass Little League, would not have minded seeing an expansion of Lions Park to accommodate more ball fields, but, he says, “You have to weigh out the greater needs of the community as a whole. We have a place to play ball,” and there are restrooms at Lions Park, he points out. “Dysart desperately needs restrooms.”
He affirms the city’s intentions of making Dysart Park amenable for use year-round, not just during Stagecoach Days, or an annual Rockafella concert festival.
“They could have a few more rodeos there. That would really bring people in,” Price says.
He hopes Lions Park can get grant funding elsewhere to pay for the grading of additional ball fields and an expanded parking lot, and to add landscaping and lighting.
Part of the reason the city decided to use the grant funds at Dysart Park rather than Lions Park, is due to the fact that the funds would expire if not used soon, and other grants the city was relying on to help fund the Lions Park expansion did not come through.
In October 2017, the city had channeled its entire Community Block Grant Fund efforts to Lions Park, even though other applicants had also requested funds that year, including Habitat For Humanity of the San Gorgonio Pass Area ($24,000), the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Gorgonio Pass ($30,000) and First Missionary Baptist Church ($50,000).
Lions Park had originally requested $220,000 in funding.