Jeffers Park Development Project makes significant strides

Forty acres of unused land in Eau Claire could turn into a softball and baseball field complex by 2015

The proposed pentagon-shaped baseball and softball complex at Jeffers Park is slated for completion by Spring 2015. The plan was approved by the city in December. Submitted

The proposed pentagon-shaped baseball and softball complex at Jeffers Park is slated for completion by Spring 2015. The plan was approved by the city in December. Submitted

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

For several years, the city of Eau Claire has owned a 40-acre parcel at the Jeffers Road and Shorewood Drive neighborhood in the northwest part of the city.

Thanks to an initiative by local youth baseball and softball leagues, that barren lot could be home to an array of happy kids, teens and families as soon as spring 2015.

Eau Claire Fastpitch and Eau Claire Nationals Little League proposed The Jeffers Park Development Project to the city in December. The $300,000 operation features a five-field baseball and softball complex and include other public park amenities like a playground, pavilion and trails. The city approved the project and planning is underway.

Stephen Nick of Eau Claire Fastpitch said the new park would not only be great for people living near that residential area, but for the city in general.

“It has a number of exciting aspects,” Nick said. “First of all, for the Jeffers District, it opens up a new city park. But beyond the immediate neighborhood, for the city, it opens up a first-ever youth baseball and softball complex.”

He said the Jeffers Park Development Project has already received of support from local businesses and community members.

Nick and Rick Souba of Eau Claire Nationals Little League teamed up with the Eau Claire Community Foundation for support.

Susan Bornick of ECCF said the foundation is willing to manage the project’s donations and expenses. This way the committee can focus on raising funds and perfecting logistics so it fulfills its potential to the city.

“The Foundation’s Board of Trustees believes in the mission of the Jeffers Park Development and that the park will be a viable, sustainable addition to our community,” Bornick said.

Last week, the project took another step forward as the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association announced it would volunteer contract labor for a pavilion and restroom building for the park.

Executive officer of the CVHBA Jennifer Johnson said she and her company supports the project. She said it will bring people together and improve businesses on that side of town.

Another opportunity this project brings is attracting people from outside the region for tournaments. The five-field setup would allow teams to travel to Eau Claire.

“The bigger complex will enhance the Eau Claire fastpitch tournament, which draws probably 80 teams to the region every June, and it will allow the Eau Claire Nationals Little League to host state and regional Little League tournaments,” Nick said.

Nick also said it is important to push the project forward as soon as possible. The city has installed a street and utility project on that side of town, and they could combine efforts with the city on the project to help with irrigation and seeding of the fields.

Nick said there are challenges in running a $300,000 project, but he said he enjoys seeing Eau Claire’s support for youth initiatives and parks, and the end result will be worth every penny.

“They’re fun to work on when you know the end product is going to be a city park where kids are going to be able to play ball and play on the playground and enjoy for generations to come,” Nick said.