Correction: Pickleball courts to be on other side of Two Mile Branch from 2007-proposed detention pond 2023-03-07

Update 2023-03-29: Trash still dribbling from 2695 N Ashley St into Two Mile Branch 2023-02-24.

At the cleanup Saturday of Two Mile Branch at Berkeley Drive, Valdosta City Engineer Benjamin O’Dowd poinged out a mistake in the post on Trash in Valdosta Two Mile Branch Watershed Management Plan, November 2007.

The pickleball courts will not actually be at the same location as the detention pond between Roosevelt Drive and Two Mile Branch at Oak Street. Instead, they will be on the other side of Two Mile Branch, next to the tennis courts.

[Pickleball Courts Location, Groundbreaking, 2007 Detention Pond]
Pickleball Courts Location, Groundbreaking, 2007 Detention Pond

My mistake. I should not have gone by hearsay, even though two people independently told me the location they thought the pickleball courts would be. Thanks to the City Engineer for pointing out my mistake.

Which doesn’t change the main point of the previous post: sixteen years later, none of the four detention ponds on Two Mile Branch in the 2007 implementation schedule have been built, nor have any other trash detention facilities been put on Two Mile Branch at Berkley Drive or Oak Street.

I thank Ben O’Dowd for promising to put trash traps at those locations.

But why were those people who told me that confused?

There’s nothing ambiguous about where the 2007 plan put the Oak Street detention pond: between Two Mile Branch and Roosevelt Drive east of Oak Street.

[Figure 4.6.6 Construct 1.6 acre RSF above Oak Street]
Figure 4.6.6 Construct 1.6 acre RSF above Oak Street

The City of Valdosta was not so specific about the location of the pickleball courts:

[Groundbreaking 2023-03-07]
Groundbreaking 2023-03-07

City of Valdosta, Press Release, no date given, but presumably March 7, 2023, City & VLPRA Break Ground On New Pickleball Facility,

VLPRA has been working on pickleball court concepts for a few years. Chairwoman Suzan Garnett says McKey Park is the perfect place for this addition.

“Having the pickleball courts right next to the tennis center….”

OK, but what does “right next to” mean?

The picture of the groundbreaking looks like the tennis courts are in the background.

There are a few more pictures with this story: MacKenzie Petri, WALB TV, March 7, 2023, Pickleball courts are making their way to Valdosta.

[Elbert Powell, Pickleball of Valdosta President; Photo: WALB 2023-03-07]
Elbert Powell, Pickleball of Valdosta President; Photo: WALB 2023-03-07

That one also looks like the tennis courts are in the background.

This one gives us a better clue:

[Suzan Garnett, VLPRA Chair; Photo: WALB 2023-03-07]
Suzan Garnett, VLPRA Chair; Photo: WALB 2023-03-07

There’s a plan on an easel in the background.

And WALB did flash that plan up on the screen:

[Pickleball Map --WALB 2023-03-07]
Pickleball Map –WALB 2023-03-07

I confirmed with the City Engineer that “ that screenshot is probably the best depiction of the project scope.”

OK, good, now we’ve located the pickleball courts for sure.

But why were my informants confused?

Because between Roosevelt Drive and Two Mile Branch was the original proposed location for the pickleball courts.

Malia Thomas, The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga. November 18, 2022, Pickleball Valdosta: City tags $1.8M for courts,

Conceptual plans for the park started last year with initial plans to build on the Roosevelt Drive portion of McKey Park. Neighborhood noise and lighting complaints to the VLPRA, which included a petition, scrapped that idea.

The VLPRA facilities committee reviewed several locations such as Freedom Park, but the committee agreed the ideal location, based upon the proximity to tennis courts, would be McKey Park but on the Burton Street side.

The base bid includes the courts, a new restroom building, a new picnic shelter, making appropriate land preparation for the courts, a parking lot with an Oak Street entrance and landscaping….

So up until November 2022, the City completely ignored the 2007 plan for a detention pond at that location.

The above VDT story is apparently about a Special Called Meeting of the Valdosta City Council on November 14, 2022. In the agenda:

5.b) Consideration of bids for the construction of new Pickleball Courts at McKey Park.

In the minutes:

Mark Barber, City Manager, stated that last year we were making progress on finding a location for Pickleball courts as requested by the Valdosta-Lowndes Co. Parks and Recreation Authority (VLPRA) and the Pickleball Association in our community. They were looking at the grassy area at McKey Park that abuts Roosevelt Drive and the adjacent neighborhood objected to the Courts being located there. At that time, the VLPRA Facilities Committee began to look for another location. They looked at Freedom Park and other locations but came back to McKey Park. This time, it will be the Burton Street side of McKey Park on the back side. The playground equipment will remain in the front area by the tennis courts. There will be a new bathroom facility and you will enter from the parking lot to the courts on Oak Street. On Roosevelt Drive, they were going to make angled parking spaces but with this new location it will necessitate a parking lot. The VLPRA opened bids on September 22, 2022. There were two responses for the Request for Proposal (RFP). The lowest and most responsive vendor submitted a base bid. The base bid of $1,658,000, which was the lowest and most responsive bid, was submitted by Quillian Powell Construction Company. The base bid includes the 12 Pickleball courts, a new restroom building, a new picnic shelter, making appropriate land preparation for the courts, a parking lot (the entrance to the parking lot will be from Oak Street), and landscaping. We also asked the bidders to add alternatives to their bid separately from the base bid one of which was a seating area being similar to what the tennis courts have now; however, we cannot afford that because it was $750,000 in addition to the $1,658,000. We discussed this with the VLPRA Staff and they will go ahead and lay the appropriate foundation for a seating area with bleachers in the future. Another alternative was another bridge and this would be coming from Roosevelt Drive across the creek to the Pickleball Court area and that would have been an additional $200,000. At this point, since we are expending more funding now to make a parking lot, we are going to forego a bridge at this time. Again, the base bid is $1,658,000 with all of the items previously mentioned. There is also a possibility that we will have to purchase a $21,000 in wetland credits. We have a bank here at the City that we may be able to use but right now the Contractor put in $21,000 for his company to have to purchase wetland credits because it will be close to the creek. There is also a $25,000 deduction just for goodwill from the Contractor from the base bid. With that being said, the base bid is $1,658,000, and you take into consideration the $25,000 deduction and if they have to purchase the wetland credits, that gets it to $1,654,000. With all bids, we add a 10% contingency of $165,400 to handle any unforeseen circumstances, especially with as much land preparation and clearing that will have to take place for this to happen. That will bring the bid to $1,819,400. Last year at this same point in time, it is approximately a $700,000 increase from what Jeff Lovell did last year as an estimate for us to look at when we began the process to the actual response from a vendor. It is about $710,000 more. This does not include lighting which was something separate. The estimate is $135,000 to $185,000 for lighting. He thought that would have some help with the lighting; however, he just found out that we are not going receive that help. As we discussed at the Work Session on Tuesday, we did not have a line item in SPLOST VIII for Pickleball courts. He is comfortable putting together this funding for some things that we have been under budget on and the total of the Parks and Recreation budget. Mark Barber, City Manager, stated that we will be asking for $1,819,400 which includes a 10% contingency; however, that does not include lighting at this time.

A MOTION was made by Councilman Gibbs to approve the bid submitted by Quillian Powell Construction Company, Inc. in the amount of $1,819,400 which includes a 10% contingency for the construction of new Pickleball Courts at McKey Park. Councilman Carroll seconded the motion. Councilman Norton inquired as to whether they could utilize the contingency if it is not used for lighting. Mark Barber, City Manager, stated that we could but that usually happens at the end of the Project. The motion was adopted (5-1) with Councilwoman Tooley voting in opposition.

It’s still my bad that I depended on hearsay.

But at least now we know why my informants were confused: they apparently had not heard the location had changed.

Why the city did not post that plan of the pickleball courts location along with its press release about the groundbreaking is mysterious. That plan does not seem to be on the city’s website anywhere.

I suppose I could file an open records request for the board packet for the November 14, 2022, Special Called Meeting of the Valdosta City Council and see if the plan is in there. But why should people have to do that to find out such basic information?

Anyway, trash in Two Mile Branch still washes down to Sugar Creek into the Withlacoochee River. The one WaterGoat on Sugar Creek just below the Two Mile Branch Confluence does help catch much of that trash.

[Map: Two Mile Branch WLRWT]
Map: Two Mile Branch in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

And I’m looking forward to seeing the trash traps at Berkley Drive and Oak Street, because as that 2007 plan demonstrates, ignored even in the next plan in 2010, and again in the pickleball court planning, plans are not enough.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!