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James Hite Park opening coincides with soccer season

By Staff | Sep 16, 2016

Chronicle photo by Anna Baker Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission members, staff, and Jefferson County Commissioners join with leaders of AYSO Soccer and players to celebrate the official ribbon cutting at James Hite Park in Leetown.

The newest addition to the Jefferson County Park System, James Hite Park, located in Leetown, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning.

The event coincided with opening day of soccer season with the AYSO League. Hundreds of youth soccer players were already playing hard on the new fields as a brief recess was called between games for the ribbon cutting.

Jefferson County Parks Director Jennifer Myers shared that years of planning and months of construction had gone into the first phase of Hite Park, which includes the soccer fields as well as football fields utilized by Jefferson County Youth Football League for team practices.

“Ten years ago, the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission had a goal to meet the need of more athletic fields for kids in Jefferson County,” Myers said.

“In 2008,” Myers continued, the purchase of the James Hite Park property began planning and partnerships that would propel this goal to reality.”

Those partnerships, Myers said, included local and federal grants, state funding sources, the County Commission and many businesses and organizations.

Top among those was the AYSO who helped secure grants and raised matching funds to help ensure the work on soccer fields would be part of the Phase 1 portion of the project.

Speaking to the crowd Saturday, AYSO leader Matt Byers shared that he began working with the league in the early 1980s. Even at that time there was a need to find better playing facilities. The league has, for years, played both at Morgan’s Grove Park and in Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town.

In addition to the soccer and football facilities, Phase 1 of the park also includes a two-mile walking trail. Funding for the trail was secured by Freedom’s Run and Dr. Mark Cuccuzella with matching funds from the Jefferson County Commission.

Many citizens have already made use of the walking trail as their children have practiced soccer or football.

Parks and Recreation Commission president Toni Milbourne read a letter of congratulations from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who could not attend the ceremony. Tomblin, along with the West Virginia Department of Transportation, at the urging of Commissioner Dale Manuel and Sen. John Unger helped ensure that Hite Road was properly paved for the amount of traffic coming into the new park.

The park has been planned to include baseball fields, playgrounds, a concession stand and restroom facilites as well as a dog park and other amenities in the future.

“We look forward to today’s first kicks and we also look forward to starting the next phase of James Hite Park,” Myers said, as she also indicated the need for continued community support.

The Parks and Recreation Commission is currently in the final phases of a county-wide park master plan ecompassing not only the plans for James Hite Park but for each of the parks in the county.

The department oversees and/or owns 10 parks including Hite, Sam Michael’s Park, Leetown Park, South Jefferson Park, Harvest Hills Park, Moulton Park, Heather Marriott Park, Mount Mission Park and Morgan’s Grove Park.

In addition, the staff, who work out of the Jefferson County Community Center at Sam Michael’s Park offer hundreds of programs each year for county residents of all ages.

In addition, they provide several special events including the Independence Day celebration, a Christmas party with Santa, Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and various movie on the lawn nights.

“We are proud that we can provide the perfect place to grow,” Myers said.

For more information on all the park system offers, visit www.jcprc.org.