Parks in the northwest part of Nueces County are in the midst of a series of renovations aimed at improving usefulness and safety for the area's children.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Pusley said there are three different renovation projects ongoing at the moment, with two still in the planning stages. Each, he said, is meant to upgrade the county's existing parks, some with athletic facilities, to meet the needs of growing programs.

Equistar Park

The first project is at Equistar Park, where the Northwest Nueces County Pony League plays its baseball games. The county has installed new "state-of-the-art" lighting at one of the fields.

"They can adjust the lights remotely, so they don't have to have a guy crawl up on a pole to do that," Pusley said, adding that power should be on sometime this week. "It's a very nice system."

Hazel Bazemore Park

The second project is at Hazel Bazemore Park in Calallen, which has received attention recently due to a situation involving the discovery of an illegal dumpsite near the outer edges of the park. With that situation being currently addressed by the county and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the county is returning its focus on improving other areas of the park, particularly its need for new restrooms.

However, with the park divided naturally into an upper and lower portion, the county has not built any new restrooms at the bottom of the park, due to it being prone to flooding from the nearby Nueces River, Pusley said.

"The park has a need for restrooms and the lower part of the park…is in close proximity to the river," Pusley said. "So every time the river comes up, that lower part floods and they've had restroom facilities there before that get swamped out."

To solve the problem, rather than build a new restroom facility, the county has purchased a $20,000 portable restroom that can be transported to higher ground if it appears the river is ready to overflow, Pusley said.

"It's a real nice portable restroom - men's and women's and (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, air conditioned - and it's set up to where if we are going to get into a flood situation, we can go down there with a forklift and pick the whole thing up and put it up on high ground where it won't get washed away," Pusley said.

The county will also be renovating existing restroom facilities on the upper portion of the park. Previous Precinct 1 County Commissioner Peggy Banales had planned to demolish and build new restrooms, at a cost of $280,000 to the county's taxpayers, Pusley said.

"There's nothing wrong with the building that's there," Pusley said. "It's a concrete block building with a concrete roof - it's bomb-proof, nearly."

After an inspection by an architect, it was determined that the existing facility was structurally sound and could simply be renovated, he added. That project, which will make the facilities ADA compliant, add new lighting and plumbing fixtures, and put in new walls will only cost the county $50,000, Pusley said.

Future improvements include paved parking areas next to the restroom facilities and around the park, but grant funds are currently being sought to pay for those projects, the commissioner said.

Jackie Eden Field

A sizeable portion of the leftover $230,000 from the Hazel Bazemore restroom project will be used to fund the construction of two new fields at Jackie Eden Field in Annaville, home to Northwest Little Miss Kickball and Oilbelt Little League.

The project will reconfigure the current setup at the field to allow for the addition of a fourth field for Little Miss Kickball, Pusley said, which has ballooned in the number of children participating to more than 450.

The new field will also be the site of a state kickball tournament next year that will bring thousands of visitors to the area, he added.

"It's a huge deal - there's going to be several thousand people coming here to participate in that," Pusley said. "It'll bring a lot of economic good to our community, with a lot of people spending money here and staying in hotels. So, this is not just to do a park for people, but this is going to generate some revenue for our community."

Another portable restroom facility, similar to the one purchased for Hazel Bazemore, will probably be purchased for the field, Pusley said. This is due to the fact that it allows the county to have the ability to reconfigure the fields in the future, if needed, and not have to worry about relocating a fixed structure, he added.

Plans are currently being reviewed for the restroom construction at Hazel Bazemore and will need to be approved by the Commissioners Court, Pusley said, with work scheduled to begin sometime in June.

The two leagues, Oil Belt and Little Miss Kickball, have volunteered to begin the demolition at the existing field, which would save the county $20,000 to $25,000, Pusley said.

Work on the field reconfiguration and addition is scheduled to begin in August and may be completed before the start of each league's seasons, which will be sometime in July 2010.