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Charles City Parks & Rec Board updates on projects, considers park improvement options

Charles City Parks & Rec Board updates on projects, considers park improvement options
Members of the Charles City Parks and Recreation Board Cory Mutch, Diane Meyer and Scott Nolte, along with city Parks and Recreation Director Tyler Mitchell, City Council Liaison Phoebe Pittman and Mayor Dean Andrews, visit Westwood Park in the northwest corner of Charles City as part of a Parks & Rec Board meeting Wednesday, June 19. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

Members of the Charles City Parks and Recreation Board spent time Wednesday evening, June 19, going through several of the city’s parks, talking about potential  improvements they would like to make at each one.

The group visited Westwood, Lions Field and Waverly Hill parks, but started the meeting with updates on the city accessible playground project and Lions Field Pool renovations.

The gathering was not an official meeting of the Parks & Rec Board initially, because not enough members were present to make up a quorum. But city Parks and Recreation Director Tyler Mitchell said the meeting was going to be mostly informational anyway, with discussion but no decisions made.

Mitchell said the board had raised $90,950, including a $50,000 donation and proceeds from the sale of the Charles City-Opoly game, plus $180,000 that the board had from its share of several years of city hotel/motel tax receipts, for a total of $270,950 that was available for an inclusive playground to be installed at Sportsmen’s Park.

Total cost of the accessible playground including installation is about $264,000, Mitchell said, adding, “It’ll be super nice.”

The playground will have four swings, an in-ground merry-go-round and two zip lines. Most of the surface will be rubber, with rubber chips in some of the border areas. The project is expected to be completed by the end of August or the beginning of September.

Mitchell said the Charles City Housing Department is using the same company, Play-Pro Recreation of Clive, to install a playground near the Morningside Apartments, which will be done at about the same time.

He said the Charles City Rotary Club will help disassemble and remove the existing Sportsmen’s Park playground pieces. Part of the existing play structure may be able to be saved and used elsewhere, because he thinks they have found a needed replacement staircase for the structure.

“Then we could use it for a couple of years, because it still has a few years left in it,” Mitchell said, suggesting that it could be moved to Westwood Park or Waverly Hill Park.

Regarding the Lions Field Swimming Pool repair project, Mitchell said bids on the estimated $900,000 project are due by July 17, followed by a special meeting of the City Council a week later to likely accept a bid.

Work on the pool project will begin in September after the end of this swimming season, with it being 100% completed by the middle of April 2025 for the start of next summer’s swimming season, he said.

Board members also discussed other potential projects and grant applications.

Board member Cory Mutch urged that a priority should be placed on fixing up and expanding the city’s bike and walking trail, possible extending it through the north part of Charles City, and working with state and national groups to link it with existing trails in other communities, such as the Clarksville and Elma trails.

Communities with great trail systems become destination communities, Mutch said.

The city is currently investigating major grant possibilities, of as much as $10 million, said Mayor Dean Andrews. Money could be used to repair and upgrade the Cedar River whitewater course, but could also be used for other significant community recreational projects.

The group started its tour of some of the city parks at Westwood Park, a large area with two ball diamonds in the northwestern most corner of the city that Mitchell said a lot of people in the community don’t even know exists.

The park is “completely packed” for two nights a week in the summer for men’s and women’s league softball games and 30 to 40 kids running around, he said, but sees little use at other times.

“There’s a ton of room out there that if we can find something else to put out there, do something, then we get more people. But it’s just so far out of the way and not everyone wants to drive on gravel,” he said.

At Lions Field Park, Mitchell said they planned to replace the roofs on all four ballfield dugouts and possibly the restrooms, depending on the cost, and there was new lighting in the restrooms.

The group discussed whether the sand volleyball court gets much use, and Phoebe Pittman, the City Council liaison to the Parks & Rec Board, suggested the location would be a better spot for another pavilion/picnic shelter.

The board talked about potential locations for a splash pad at Lions Field, but Mayor Andrews suggested that it might be better to have maybe three splash pads with fewer features located around the city, rather than one splash pad with many features.

Mitchell said the board needs to decide what to do with the former skate park area near the pool parking lot, but said one problem is that the current concrete slab has poor drainage. A couple of board members liked the idea of turning the area into more pickleball courts.

At Waverly Hill Park the board discussed options for the dog park at that location, including options to change the current division between the small dog park and the big dog park so that the small dog park doesn’t consist almost entirely of a very steep hill that is difficult for people with mobility problems, and so small dogs could use part of the tree-covered hill that’s in the big dog part of the park.

Board members also discussed the potential for additional playground equipment at the park, including the possibility of a “natural” playground using logs and boulders.

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