The Charlotte Area Recreation Cooperative has moved closer to its goal of providing more softball fields in the Charlotte community. By partnering with the Charlotte Junior Orioles (CJO), Eaton County United Way and new local non-profit, Everybody Plays, Inc., the Rec. Co-op has strengthened its case for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation grant.
The Co-op’s grant application was recently moved through the second of a three-phase grant process, giving members confidence they will receive funding to construct softball fields north of the Samuel L. Combs Industrial Park.
“Two fields would be our ultimate goal for the first round,” said Ron Hunt, Eaton Township trustee and one of the township’s representatives on the Co-op board. “We plan on at least one, but it depends on the grant we are awarded.”
The Rec. Co-op, which consists of members from the City of Charlotte and Carmel and Eaton townships, has entered a 25-year lease agreement with the City of Charlotte’s Land Development Finance Authority (LDFA) to utilize a 22-acre parcel for development of at least one softball field this spring. The parcel is located adjacent to and north of what is considered the main portion of the industrial park, said City Manager Gregg Guetschow. It is undeveloped and has been used primarily as farmland since the city acquired it in the early 2000s.
The fields are part of the Rec. Co-op’s five-year master plan and Hunt said the first phase in what could be a multi-year development.
“Our main function is creating facilities to decrease costs associated with athletic opportunities for people in our community,” Hunt said. “We will not get into programming. There are plenty of people out there running programs. They just need facilities in which to run their program.”
Providing more softball fields for the CJO program has been on the Co-op’s radar for a number of years. The new partnership for this project will allow the CJO softball program to utilize the fields in exchange for their maintenance.
Jan Day, who along with husband, Bill White, helped start Everybody Plays, Inc. as a way to increase recreational opportunities in Eaton County, sees the softball fields as a first step. The group’s ultimate vision includes restrooms and concessions buildings, walking trails and an indoor facility. The Rec. Co-op has applied for a number of grants to help with funding, including the Major League Baseball Tomorrow Fund, Kiwanis International Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation and the Dart Foundation.
The Rec. Co-op receives funding from the City of Charlotte, Eaton and Carmel townships through a portion of taxes generated from new development resulting from the 425 agreements established in the mid 90s. Hunt said revenue is roughly between $30,000 and $40,000 per year, which has allowed the Co-op to save the $75,000 necessary to match the DNR Land and Water Conservation grant.
The Charlotte Area Recreation Cooperative was established more than five years ago by the City of Charlotte, Eaton and Carmel townships to enhance recreational facilities for local youth after the former recreation agreement with Charlotte Public Schools was not renewed. The money the Co-op receives from the three entities can only be used to establish, enhance or provide recreational facilities.