Celebration of Bandy Park upgrades slated for May 26
By Morgan Bryce
City leaders and officials will host a celebration May 26 to recognize the recent renovations and upgrades made to Opelika’s historic Bandy Park.
Improvements include a new pavilion for luncheons and events, lighted walking trail with benches, repaved basketball courts and more.
The project’s completion is the realization of a nearly 2-year-old campaign promise made by Ward 2 Councilwoman Tiffany Gibson-Pitts, who is a proponent of accessible parks and recreational areas for all Opelika citizens.
While on the campaign trail in Opelika’s Ward 2 in fall 2016, Gibson-Pitts said Jeter residents voiced their concerns over the lack of a fence around the baseball field for hosting tournaments, structured recreational activities for children and overall dilapidated condition of the area surrounding the park. These issues turned the renaissance of Bandy Park into one of Gibson-Pitts’ major political platforms during her successful run for office.
“It’s been great to see a lot of those changes made. I’m a firm believer that if you tell someone you’re going to do something, then you need to do it,” Gibson-Pitts said. “The people that I run into in the (ward) are excited. People tell me, ‘ooh, I love what you’ve helped get done for the park,’ and the kids, they’re excited too. I think it’s brought a big sense of civic pride to that area.”
Two longtime Opelika residents with deeply rooted connections to the park shared their thoughts on the changes and its namesake, the late Rep. George “Tootie” Bandy.
“I think the improvements are great. Anything that will help bring a facelift or uplift our community is awesome, and I think the park is being utilized more by the children,” said Oscar Penn. “Even though some of these changes are small, it makes a big difference compared to the way the park used to be. That place means a great deal to me and my family.”
“Mr. Bandy meant a lot to the south side of town. He was a person that made sure that a lot of injustices were taken care of,” said Larry Gray. “He didn’t just work for the betterment of black (people) here in Opelika, he did what he did for all Opelika citizens.”
Gibson-Pitts said there is still work to be done in the park, including the construction of a small amphitheatre to host concerts, public forums and other group activities, but said she is excited for the difference these improvements will make in the present.
“People just love the fact that there is something new there at the park. I think it makes them feel cared about and as if someone prioritizes their needs and wellbeing, and it makes the whole neighborhood look a lot better,” Gibson-Pitts said. “Also, I’ve been doing research, and good community parks can add to the local economy. But more than anything, this is about community pride. Because when people feel good about where they stay (and live), they tend to want to take better care of their area.”
No time has been set for the celebration. For more information or updates, visit www.opelika-al.gov or the Around Ward 2 – Opelika Facebook page.