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Bel Air officials discuss possible improvements to Shamrock Park

Possible improvements to Bel Air's popular Shamrock Park are being discussed preliminarily by town officials.

Some concepts for the park improvements, including new walkways, better handicapped access to the William Humbert Amphitheater, additional plantings and more playground structures, benches and picnic tables, were presented to the Board of Town Commissioners during a work session at town hall Tuesday afternoon by Planning Director Kevin Small.

According to Small, the impetus for some of his proposals is the plan to plant an elm tree on either side of the band shell to provide shade at summer events. Small said he would like to install walkways from Lee Way and from the parking area to the amphitheater. The possibility of installing a path between the park and the library was also discussed Tuesday.

Other proposals offered by Small included adding some more playground structures in the shape of animals, something similar to the lion that is already there, to form a "menagerie," as he put it. He also said the single table near the playground is always in use when he goes by, so he reasoned a second table would also get heavy use.

Another proposal discussed was to turn the 4th of July frog-jumping pit into a volleyball or some other type of outdoor sports court for more frequent availability, but Small was cautioned by Public Works Director Randy Robertson that the pit is actually made from compacted quarry tailings, not sand as Small had thought.

"Frogs can't jump on sand," Robertson told Small.

Given the popularity of the annual contest, several people at the work session suggested it might not be a good idea to change the composition of the pit, or to at least first consult with "Calavaras County," in the words of one town official.

Another suggestion by Small is to turn what is essentially a flag court between the parking lot and the amphitheater into a sheltered picnic area, erecting a canopy over the tables. He also said he would like to remove the paved driveway between the parking lot and the band shell in favor of using pavers that look like grass.

The plan for the elm trees at the band shell drew some questions from Town Commissioner Susan Burdette, who asked if they would block visibility. Burdette noted the free movies shown from the band shell in the summer draw a full house of spectators who fill the amphitheater area to Lee Way.

Small said the trees will be four inches wide when planted, mature enough that they should not block the view and as they grow, their limbs will grow upward. If there are problems, he added, they can be trimmed.

Small also suggested that the town pave a portion of the area in front of the band shell and reposition the benches to improve access for handicapped people and to eliminate the quagmires that can form in that area during times of heavy use. A planted area with shrubs and flowers would be installed between the paved portion, which he said could be made to look like brick, and the front of the band shell, he said.

As for improvements to the band shell, Small suggested the town consider installing a permanent pull down screen for the movie events and improving the sound system. Robertson said erecting more speakers on poles around the amphitheater would probably help the situation, and Mayor Eddie Hopkins agreed the sound system should be upgraded.

Schlehr urged the commissioners and the public to make other suggestions about possible improvements to the park.

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