On Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, the Concerned Citizens of Cook County hosted a key local event in celebration of Black History Month. Area residents gathered to remember the positive history of Jim Battle Community Park while starting plans to improve the park’s service to the community.
Jim Battle, an Adel leader for whom the park is named, was inducted into the Cook County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. After 54 years of coaching and helping prepare fields for baseball and softball games, Jim Battle retired in 1991. He was a catcher and team manager for the Adel Astros Baseball Team in the 1960s to 1970s.
Mr. Battle lived in the block building at Elm-Pine Park, which was later named in his honor. His tireless contributions and mentoring to hundreds of youths and adults made Cook County a much better place, because baseball brought him here.
During the recent gathering at Jim Battle Park, Dr. Treva Gear with Concerned Citizens shared that the park began in the early 1960s as a baseball field that Mr. Battle managed as a volunteer. He added a community swimming pool and a recreation room for table tennis. The park became a gathering place on the weekends and continues to be so until the present day, although many of the forum attendees agreed that the quality of facilities has diminished since Mr. Battle’s time.
Community members gave remarks about Mr. Battle and the park’s impact. Pastor David Johnson shared that Mr. Battle did an exceptional job with the Lord’s guidance, considering that Mr. Battle had just a fifth grade education and he faced the obstacle of racial discrimination limiting what resources could be directed to the park. “He cared about the people and children who are here,” Johnson said. “He was an ethical man. He gave of himself unselfishly.” Johnson recalled helping Mr. Battle restring old ball gloves not only for the players at the Elm-Pine Park, but also at other parts of town. Still, despite his gracious manner, Mr. Battle wouldn’t allow any child to disrespect him.
Other speakers at the forum recalled singing groups performing at the park and the ball games being packed with players and spectators since Mr. Battle invited friendly competitors from other communities.
Turning the group’s attention to the park’s current needs, Dr. Gear noted damage to the basketball court, the poor condition of the playground equipment, a broken water fountain, and no access to bathroom facilities in the park. She noted the difference in maintenance between Jim Battle Park and Adel City Park.
Tremaine Johnson, assistant athletic director for the Adel-Cook Recreation Department, was present for the meeting. He urged community involvement in the upkeep so any improvements that are made won’t be set back.
The group brainstormed on ideas for improvements, including the possibility of a full-time manager, a new playground, bathroom facilities, a working water fountain, lighting and fencing enhancements, scoreboards, security cameras, a proper track, and even a swimming pool. The citizens suggested checking on whether Jim Battle qualifies as a historical site so it can receive grant funding. They also asked for sidewalk additions in the area to improve pedestrian safety.
Councilwoman Celestine Hayes expressed appreciation to all who attended the park forum. She said she would bring their concerns and ideas for improvements to the city manager and before the City Council. Dr. Gear said the Feb. 25 event will be the first of several meetings on planning upgrades for Jim Battle Park.