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Next project for St. Paul parks group: Oxford ball fields

The next project on deck for the St.

The next project on deck for the St. Paul Parks Conservancy will be improvements to the baseball fields at the Oxford Community Center, where Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Joe Mauer played ball in their youth.

The nonprofit  group raises money for park enhancements that the city can’t afford in these tight-budget days. It’s first project was fundraising for improvements at Lilyday Regional Park, where they’re helping fund a dramatic stone-and-brick gateway entry to the park from Harriet Island, as well as a stone-lined creek along Water Street leading into the park. Other hoped-for enhancements include road improvements, power line burial, topographical improvements, debris removal and the addition of lake and trail amenities.

At Oxford, on Lexington Parkway, the group hopes to raise $361,000 for new field lighting, multi-sport synthetic turf markings, goal posts, backstops and drinking fountains.

The ball fields were the last phase of a $15 million major renovation and upgrade at Oxford, for the recreation center and pool. But when work started on the fields, lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium were found in the soil, so the fields were closed and cleanup work is now under way.

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When that’s finished, officials plan to install a synthetic playing surface for football, soccer, baseball and softball. They hope to have it ready for use next year.