Residents concerned after council decides Huntsville park will be sold to UAH

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Concerned residents came to Monday's special Huntsville City Council meeting ready to speak in favor of their beloved University Park.

It's located on Saundralane Drive, adjacent to University of Alabama in Huntsville sports fields, and has been there for decades.

Now, the council has voted to sell the 10.1-acre park to UAH for $900,000. Mayor Tommy Battle said that money will go back into neighboring parks, like Brahan Springs. The Continental League teams that currently use University Park will start to play there instead.

UAH's current plan once the sale is finalized is to use the park as intramural softball and baseball fields.

Ray Garner, Chief of Staff to the president of UAH, said, "Intramural sports is an important part of student life. And it's a growing program at UAH."

But residents weren't so ready to see the deed change hands.

Steven Setzer told the council, "That land was donated to Huntsville for kids to play ball, not to be sold to UAH."

We spoke with Debbie Marsili, who lives next to the park. She enjoys walking her dog there and said in its heyday the park saw multiple teams playing games every night of the week.

"Oh we love it. We do," said Marsili.

She, along with her neighbors, are concerned about whether the park will remain accessible by the public once the sale is complete.

At the meeting, Garner attempted to put their minds at ease. He said the park will be a joint space, shared between the public and the students.

"We are going to be true to our word. And we are going to make sure the park is an asset for both the neighborhood and our campus," he said.

He added that the university will spend the appropriate money to improve the grounds and make it better than it is now.

Residents were also concerned about the park's Riggs and Setzer fields, named after beloved neighborhood coaches and leaders.

"These two gentlemen are the ones who really encouraged this park's growth, and we need to remember them," said Marsili.

Garner said the plan is for those fields to keep their titles.

Garner also provided WHNT News 19 with a list of other changes the university is considering when it comes to the park.

It states the current entrance on Saundralane Drive would be closed to vehicles, instead barricaded by bollards that only allow people and bikes to pass. Walking paths will  be constructed.

The plan is to also remove some of the pavement to provide more green space and route traffic from the UAH campus into the Western edge of the park.  Garner said safety is on the mind and this new entrance would help with that because it allows easier access by UAH Police to patrol the park.

This still leaves many other questions. Marsili questioned the noise level of the park's new UAH activities when we spoke with her Monday.

City council members say the police will be informed to continue enforcing noise ordinances around the park.


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