Government

How Iowa City is planning on taking four of its parks to the next level

'And swings, always swings'

Fairmeadows Park is scheduled to get a new shelter, signs and small-child playground. (Rendering courtesy Iowa City)
Fairmeadows Park is scheduled to get a new shelter, signs and small-child playground. (Rendering courtesy Iowa City)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa City’s Wetherby Park features the sort of amenities you’d typically find in a city park — a playground, splash pad, jogging paths, a community garden, ball courts and fields, and a shelter.

But the 24-acre space at 2400 Taylor Dr., on Iowa City’s south side, is more than just a park, serving as a community center of sorts for citizens, particularly residents of the South District Neighborhood.

Angie Jordan, a member of the South District Neighborhood Association, said during the year Wetherby Park is home to bike rodeos, camps and educational opportunities. In the summer, it’s a stop for the Iowa City Public Library’s Bookmobile.

“These parks aren’t just a place to play in,” Jordan said. “They’re to help bring educational things. We don’t have a library nearby.”

Established in 1975, Wetherby Park has received renovations over the years and is due for another upgrade.

City of Iowa City staff say the park is in fair to poor condition, has accessibility and maintenance concerns and is seeing increased use thanks to splash pad users.

Jordan agreed the park could use a little attention.

“Particularly, the play structures are pretty outdated,” she said.

Wetherby is one of four parks citywide scheduled to get an update in 2020. Earlier this month, the Iowa City Council approved setting public meetings for next month on the proposed Wetherby renovation and improvements to Scott, Napoleon and Fairmeadows parks.

Each park was identified in the 2017 Park Master Plan as being in need of improvements.

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Parks and Recreation Director Juli Seydell Johnson said each of the city’s 42 parks and natural areas receives attention approximately every 20 years or so.

“We’re just systematically making our way through the city and getting all of the parks spruced up and renovated,” Seydell Johnson said.

The largest of the four projects is at Wetherby Park. Scheduled work includes removing the existing shelter, playground, pavement and utilities and replacing them with a new shelter, play equipment and sidewalks.

Concrete paths also will be added to increase the park’s accessibility.

Seydell Johnson said the new playground is “more of an obstacle course” and will feature opportunities to climb, jump and test your balance.

“And swings,” she said, “always swings.”

The $600,000 project — funded through the city’s capital improvement funds — is scheduled to be complete by the end of October. Seydell Johnson said the city hopes to keep the splash pad, community gardens and sports courts open during renovations.

Also in the South District, Fairmeadows Park, 2500 Miami Dr., is scheduled to get a new shelter, signs and small-child playground. Seydell Johnson said the project will see the playground and shelter moved from the east side of the park to the west side.

“I think it just centralizes the use more around the splash pad,” she said. “It gets it out of a low area where there have been some water concerns.”

Scott Park, located off Scott Boulevard on the east side of Iowa City, is scheduled to receive a new playground and shelter. Because the new play structure and shelter are being built in a slightly different location within the park, the existing playground will remain in place during construction, Seydell Johnson said.

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“It’s a well-loved park,” she said. “It’s just more of an updated play space from what it was before.”

Improvements at Napoleon Park, 2501 S. Gilbert St., will address flooding concerns.

“The playground ... was flooded to the point it was closed the last two summers,” Seydell Johnson said.

The previous playground already has been removed and the city plans to put in three separate play areas closer to the concession stand and out of the flood-prone area. Concrete paths also will provide better access to both the play area and concession stand, Seydell Johnson said.

The Fairmeadows, Scott and Napoleon park projects will be put to bid together and are anticipated to cost $395,000 total.

Seydell Johnson said work that already began last year at two city parks — Willow Creek and City Park — is anticipated to wrap up this year. Work could not be completed last fall, she said, due to bad weather.

“We had 10 inches of snow in October,” Seydell Johnson recalled.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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