CLERMONT – Lake County commissioners on Tuesday approved engineering and design plans for a new park in south Lake County.

South Lake Regional Park will occupy 141 acres south of State Road 50, adjacent to the city of Groveland.

The park is an outgrowth of citizen concerns that there are not enough ballfields in that part of the county to accommodate the growing number of families and sports activities in the area.

There has been discussion about such a park for the past 12 years. The county’s Parks & Recreation Master Plan recommended the park in 2005, but it was not until 2014 that the board accepted 141 acres from the city of Clermont.

Commissioners approved the park’s master plan Tuesday and an additional $1 million for roads, sidewalks and utilities for the facility. Construction support is expected to cost $796,150, according to county officials.

“This is a very important next step in building the South Lake Regional Park for a region of the county that has intense demand from the public for sports and outdoor fitness venues,” Commissioner Sean Parks said. “As a parent of three children, I have to drive outside of the county for the sports my kids participate in because there are not enough fields in south Lake.”

Residents in the cities of Groveland, Clermont, Minneola, Montverde and Mascotte provided input about the park's master plan.

The master plan includes eight softball fields, four youth baseball fields, two adult baseball fields, eight multipurpose fields, multi-use trail, dog park, canoe launch, playgrounds and pavilions.

Max Hooks Road provides the only access to the park with limited right of way.

The existing road is not designed to handle the expected traffic from the park and future development, according to a county presentation. It is also directly adjacent to a mobile home park.

County Public Resources Director Jeff Cole said the corridor on Max Hooks Road has a “significant number of large oak trees, all of which will be removed by the road and utility construction."

County officials said improvements to the road are needed with Phase 1 of the park. Parks said developers will cover half the costs of the road improvements.

Commissioners Leslie Campione and Wendy Breeden were concerned about cutting down the 27 historic oak trees along the road. “Are we saving trees?” Campione asked.

“It is the trees or the trailer park,” County Manager David Heath said. “The problem is you go into an imminent domain and condemn that trailer park, you are going to be relocating some of those folks.”

Parks said the county would do everything it could to save the historic trees.

The park will be built in three phases and commissioners will decide whether to authorize funding from the penny sales tax in the amount of $6.2 million to cover costs of construction for Phase 1.

Clermont City Manager Darren Gray said he was thrilled with the County Commission’s decision Tuesday.

“The south Lake part of the county has been in desperate need of a park because all the cities were taking the brunt of the recreational needs,” he said. “We applaud the County Commission for approving the plans to move forward…”

Construction on the first phase is expected to begin in 2018 once funding is allocated.