City parks to see more aquatic features

BY JULIA SHRIVER | JUNE 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Parents and their children have descended on city parks recently to enjoy the water play stations in the summer heat. But as more splash pads crop up around Iowa City, officials say these aquatic features are actually part of larger neighborhood stabilization efforts.

A new splash pad opened June 20 at Fairmeadows Park. Open to all ages on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., the 16 water play stations provide a place for children to play in the summer.

The splash pads are part of a larger effort on behalf of Iowa City administrators to improve its neighborhoods through the installation of new aquatic amenities, including two splash pads and the renovation of the City Park pool.

“Parks help build community … and when parks are maintained, when they offer strong amenities like play equipment and shelters, that helps enhance communities and helps enhance neighborhoods, and so that’s one of the reasons we invest in our parks,” said Adam Bentley, the city’s administrative assistant. “… we make these improvements; we create these amenities absolutely for the idea of stabilizing neighborhoods but just helping to build community [as well].”

The projects are funded through federal community development block grant funds and some city funds.

Kumi Morris, the city’s architecture services coordinator, estimated the total cost of implementing the Fairmeadows Park splash pad and its associated amenities to be roughly $354,000.

Chad Dyson, superintendent of recreation, wrote in an email that the Wetherby Park splash pad cost $200,000 and was part of the Parks and Recreation Department’s master plan.

After a 15-water-spray splash pad in Wetherby Park opened in May, it was immediately well received by the community.

“We put one in Wetherby, and it was really popular, and so when we had more money to allocate, the Parks and Rec Commission decided they wanted another one and they chose Fairmeadows,” said Tracy Hightshoe, Iowa City community-development planner.

Cindy Roberts, the chairwoman of the Grant Wood Neighborhood Association, said the added feature to the park is a “very good investment in the neighborhood,” because it could potentially attract more residents to the neighborhood. The park is located next to Wood Elementary School and the Sycamore Greenway Trail.

Steve Long, Iowa City community-development coordinator, said improvements to the park would provide for the encompassing neighborhood.

“It’s right next to Grant Wood Elementary School, so it’s a good partnership, being right next to a school,” Long said. “It’s also an easy access for a lot of neighbors that can walk from their home[s] to the park.”

City officials say the goal of the splash pads is to be “a neighborhood asset” despite attracting residents of other communities to the local parks.

“We’re finding that it’s not just the neighborhood [that enjoys them] — we see people driving from all over to go to the splash pads,” Bentley said.

With the same community improvement initiative in mind, Parks and Recreation’s next plan for an aquatic project will be implemented in City Park.

Matthew Eckhardt, aquatics supervisor for Parks and Recreation, said the city plans to renovate the City Park pool this fall for roughly $600,000, which will include an additional water feature similar to a splash pad.

Exact details on its makeup are still being debated, but Bentley said officials expect to replace the wading pool currently in the park. To date, no current plans call for additional splash pads in other city parks or facilities.

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