Highlands Capital Improvement wish list includes Rec Park additions

Philanthropy in Highlands is historic.

Joining Jane Woodruff, who helped make Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the Highlands Civic Center a reality as well as paving the way for a Fire & Rescue complex, among other things, are Art and Angela Williams and families and businesses in Highlands who donate money but also offer in-kind services.

Now an anonymous family has stepped up to flesh out Highlands’ recreation offerings. 

At the annual Town Board retreat earlier this month, Recreation Director Lester Norris said a family has offered $31,000 to expand the existing playground at the park.

“Basically, they want to add two more units to what is already there … expand the current area down the embankment and to add a new area on the other side of the skate park where the picnic table is now.”

Norris said the family has pledged another $20,000 to be hopefully augmented with a local fundraising campaign.

With a Town Board squarely behind recreation facilities in town as well as enormous financial aid from Art & Angela Williams who helped fund the interior renovation of the Civic building as well as renovations to the pool house, creation of the skating rink, and work at the ball field, recreation facilities in Highlands have never looked better.

Since the annual Town Board retreat is where department heads present their capital improvement wish list, Norris laid out his wishes.

First, he said the outdoor bathrooms are pretty decrepit and since they have been getting a lot of use with the skatepark opened and the tennis courts revamped, it’s time for them to be totally renovated. 

He asked for $75,000 to remodel the bathrooms and the playground. Donated funds would replace what the town might spend on the playground project.

The Houston House at the Highlands Rec Park is used for summer camp programs.

Also on his list, is the Houston House on Foreman Road which is being used for the Rec Dept.’s after school and summer camp programs.

Again, this is a structure that has outlived its original purpose … that of a modest Highlands home.

In its place, he suggested an 8,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose building that could be used for the same after-school and camp programs but also much more.

“We renovated and re-allocated space in the Civic Center but now we need more space for other things,” he said.

Additional uses for the multi-purpose building would include birthday parties, family reunions, meetings, fitness classes, clinics, pickleball during inclement weather, and basketball.

He said ideally the structure would include a classroom, kitchen, restrooms, a recreation room/gym, storage area, and should include video, music and speaking capabilities as well as handicap parking on site.

The price tag is a hefty — $2 to 2.4 million. 

He asked that the money for the conceptual plan by Architect Paul Schmitt of $33,000-$36,000 be budgeted for FY 2021-’22. If the town decides to move forward with the project, then that cost will be deducted from the cost of the architectural plans of $165,000 to $180,000. 

Norris also requested new lights for the ballfield which would cost $265,00-$275,000. They would be 20-30 feet lower so as not to overflow into area neighborhoods and they would consist of the latest lighting technology.

He also said $25,500 was needed to remove and replace pavilion pads on the pavilions below the playground. 

No capital expense decisions were made at the retreat, but Rec Park items were added to the list.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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