“One of the worst things is when you have a child who may have a disability and they come to this cool, new playground only to realize they can’t use the equipment,” he said. “It’s just a bummer, so we’re really trying hard to make this something that’s more inclusive, so that all kids get a chance to enjoy it.”
The playground equipment at both parks is more than 20 years old, Hopkins said. Helke Park includes two area of equipment, one which was installed in 1996 and the other in 2000. Equipment at the Sports Complex dates back to 1992.
“We’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth out of this equipment,” Hopkins said. “We’ve taken good care of the parks, but it’s definitely time for a change.”
Hopkins said specific details are still being hashed out, but the new installations will include some typical playground equipment (slides, climbing structures, swings), with a major focus on accessibility.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all, so it’s going through a preliminary planning process to figure out what works best at each playground, how things will flow, and details like that,” Hopkins said.
In March of this year, the city launched a new master plan initiative for its Parks and Recreation Department.
City Manager Dan Wendt said at the time that the master plan process will be thorough, involving the collection of information from parks staff, city residents who are parks users, school officials and businesses.
“I think that will be vital because we’ve got a number of what we call pocket parks, in smaller parts of neighborhoods, that at this point in time are pretty much just green space with park benches, so we’ve had some people in the community ask us to develop those more, or to put playground equipment or some sort of activity in these parks,” said Parks and Recreation Director Steve Clark. “And, in our larger parks, it will allow the community to come in to tell us what they would like to see, in terms of the maintenance level, what we need to bring up-to-date, and anything new they would like to see or recommend.”
The city approved a $100,000 agreement with PROS Consulting to help lead the master plan process and provide clear objectives to city officials and the parks advisory board. The consulting firm will incorporate community input into the plan, which is set to be finalized at the end of this year.
“The master parks plan is part of a broader (10-year) plan for our Parks and Recreation Department and its relationship to the community as a whole,” Hopkins said.