Community baseball field at center of legal battle over ownership – WIAT 42

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A baseball park in the middle of the Mt. Olive community is at the center of controversy over ownership.

Neighbors say they were blindsided by the sale of the property and are asking a Jefferson County judge to intervene.

“We have our park, but we’re locked out,” said Dale Jones as he showed CBS 42 the lock on the gate to the front entrance.

Jones is one of three plaintiffs involved in the ongoing lawsuit.

“It just hit our community out of the blue that the ballpark has been sold,” said Jones.

The Mt Olive Ball Park is supposed to be controlled by a board since it is a non-profit organization. Bylaws were established decades ago when it was acquired.

In 2015, court records show the property was sold to Gardendale Baptist Church and its’ Tabernacle Christian School.

News of the sale didn’t hit members of the community until recently. Jones says his son was told he had to leave the fields.

Jones has a lot of questions about why the property was sold and who knew about the transaction.

“It’s hard to believe it was done correctly when nobody in Mt. Olive knew about it, and one person decided to sell it on their own, and nobody knows where the money went from the sale,” said Jones.

Robert Rosenburg, a lawyer for the church and the ball park president, told CBS 42 by phone that the fields are run the same and that folks can still play ball.

Rosenburg is hoping a judge will toss the lawsuit because he claims the plaintiffs aren’t active park members or officers and can’t legally challenge the case.

According to Rosenburg, the church has invested thousands of dollars in improving the park.

Jones isn’t opposed to having a variety of community church leaders on a park board and thinks it will take a partnership between organizations and the neighborhood.

He’d like to see control return to the neighborhood.

“We played pick up football, frisbee, baseball. This was always open to our community,” said Jones.

In the weeks ahead, a Jefferson County judge is expected to decide the next step in the process. It’s possible that a mediator could get involved.

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