Liberty Township's long-standing plan to improve South Liberty Park could start to take shape in 2014.
The township plans to construct competition-level girls softball diamonds and additional sports fields west of the Liberty Township/Powell YMCA building on North Liberty Road.
"We've been talking about this (project) for five years plus," Township Administrator Dave Anderson said.
At their final meeting of 2013, Liberty Township trustees gave the township's administration the go-ahead to negotiate with design and engineering firms that submitted proposals for improvements on the 50-acre parcel.
According to the township's request for proposals, the selected firm will be responsible for the design of four softball diamonds and additional multipurpose fields, along with parking spaces, fences and utilities. The project might be completed in several phases as funding becomes available.
One goal of the project is to create new paths for walking and biking.
"The idea is to integrate the South Liberty Park walking paths into North Liberty Park," which is located at the intersection of Liberty and Home roads, Anderson said.
South Liberty Park features largely treeless former farmland, separated from Liberty Park by woods to the northwest and Grace Church to the northeast.
Anderson said the project's budget could come in at about $1 million, but it has not yet been finalized.
The township has about $300,000 in bond funding remaining from the construction of the YMCA building on the east side of the property that must be used for site improvements. The township leases the eastern section of the property to the YMCA, which maintains and operates the building.
Anderson said the Olentangy Youth Athletic Association put the township in touch with an anonymous donor who could pay for a large portion of the remaining costs. He said the township needs to supply the donor with final plans and costs before the arrangement can be finalized.
"We have every reason to believe they're going to come through," Anderson said of the donor.
The township also has sought other donations and grants to help pay for the remainder of the project's costs. Design firms were told to accommodate a cellphone tower in the western corner of the parcel, which would provide income to the township.
Previously in 2013, trustees approved a $4,000 contract for a consulting firm that would provide a concept plan for the park and a $14,660 contract with J&D Turf. The Indiana company will act as field specialist and project manager during construction.
Anderson said he would like construction to begin on the project in the second quarter of 2014.