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Jones Park Neighbors Upset City Closed Baseball Diamond

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A portion of a city park is closed to public use.The Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation department staff locked the gates on a new baseball diamond built on Jones Park.

Now, only one of the three diamonds at the park is open to people who live nearby. They came to play on baseball diamond number one at Jones Park. And they found the park surrounded by a fence and the doors locked.

Back in 2008, Danielle Cripe and her family moved to a home with Jones Park in their backyard.

"It would be a great place for our kids to use and utilize the facilities that were here including the baseball diamond," said Danielle Cripe who lives near Jones Park.

But this past weekend, Cripe found a pad lock on the newly constructed fence all around the field.

"It was infuriating to come out and see the facilities we were able to use in the past were no longer accessible to me, my family and my neighbors' families," said Cripe.

The city says it's the overuse and misuse of the facility that forced them to lock people out.

"Anything from operating as a dog park, people come in and run their dogs, a lot of soccer goals get carried in there, just a lot of stuff," said Cedar Rapids Parks Superintendent Daniel Gibbins.

And it's no ordinary baseball field with higher-end grass, an irrigation system, and fence. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund awarded a $75,000 grant to fix-up this baseball diamond back in 2011. Now, the city contracts primary use to a local youth sports league called Saints Sports. It takes care of the high costs of maintaining and repairing this field.

"There are both turf and line issues that saints sports is putting a lot into repair to get that back up to a playable level," said Gibbins.

Parks Superintendent Daniel Gibbins says this is just a unique case. They have to keep the public out, so paying youth teams can use the field without interruption.

"They're putting a facility in a city park and only going to make it available to youth teams when it's on property that I'm paying for as a taxpayer," said Cripe.

A grant paid for the diamond, but it does sit on public property. And it's that fine line that's caused dissension.

The Parks Superintendent did reach out to Cripe and others who were upset about the city's decision to lock up the baseball diamond. You can use another diamond at Jones Park, or other diamonds at other parks across the city. The baseball diamond will re-open for public use in mid-July, after the youth baseball season.

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