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Kenwood Park in Cedar Rapids gets 'awesome' upgrades

Rockwell Collins provided funding; dedication is Monday

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Karen Keffer says the park next to her home in northeast Cedar Rapids hasn’t always been the nicest of places.

But thanks to a team of employees from Rockwell Collins, Kenwood Park is something Keffer and her neighbors can now be proud of.

“Six or seven years ago, all you would see was crud,” said Keffer, whose home sits next to the park, which is located near the intersection of 35th Street NE and Zach Johnson Drive NE.

“We used to find needles and things like that. Sometimes it would be vandalized.”

Keffer, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said since improvements were made last fall, things have been looking up.

In September, executives from Rockwell Collins — which has a campus across from the park — helped give the green space a facelift with installation of a new pavilion, swing set and basketball court.

On Monday, residents in the Kenwood Park Neighborhood plan to celebrate these improvements with a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m., followed by an ice cream social until 7 p.m. The event is free to the public.

Kenwood Park is small — about the size of half a city block — but popular among those who live in the Kenwood Park Neighborhood, said Aubrey Franks, 35, a resident there.

“It’s always active,” she said. “Kids are here all the time, even in the winter.” Jenny Becker, manager of diversity and community relations at Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins, said the avionics and communications company put up $20,000 to fund the park improvements. About 150 company executives were in Cedar Rapids last fall for a three-day forum that concluded with the community service project.

In partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the crew worked for more than three hours landscaping, placing forms for concrete work and constructing the swing set and picnic tables at the park.

“We really thought this was a win-win for the neighborhood,” said Becker, adding Rockwell Collins employees often use the park during their daytime shifts or after work to relax or play a pick-up basketball game. “We wanted to be a good neighbor.”

Improvements to the park had been a long-term goal of the Kenwood Park Neighborhood Association, said Erica Yoder, president of the association. She said it was an important step in keeping the roughly 1,500-household neighborhood “family-oriented.”

“We thought it would be beneficial,” she said. “The installations are a good amenity and makes the park more usable.”

Neighborhood association officials hope to continue making improvements to the park, including installing flower beds near the pavilion next spring, Yoder added.

Keffer said members of her family are among those who now regularly visit Kenwood Park. She added her 10-year-old daughter Elyssa was inspired to play basketball on her school’s team after the half court was installed.

“We think it’s an awesome addition,” Keffer said of the park improvements. “We enjoy it. It’s better than what we thought it would be.”

Kenwood Park

 

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