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Iowa City parks projects bring new playgrounds and more this year

Construction continues on new playground equipment at Villa Park, 424 MacBride Rd., in Iowa City Iowa, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Construction continues on new playground equipment at Villa Park, 424 MacBride Rd., in Iowa City Iowa, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa City is home to 50 parks, and this year work is being done at a handful of them.

Across the city, new parks are being dedicated and old parks are receiving new playground equipment, restrooms and park shelters. And while that might seem like a lot of park projects going on at once, Iowa City’s Director of Parks and Recreation Juli Seydell Johnson said, “it’s just another summer for us.”

“We have 50 parks,” Seydell Johnson said. “We try to spread our projects out so we’re doing replacements in different parts of the community.”

Seydell Johnson said a point of emphasis among the park projects has been inclusion for all children. While that can include making the playgrounds physically accessible, that also means offering spaces for children with a range of cognitive abilities, Seydell Johnson said.

“There’s a whole range of inclusivity,” she said. “We’re doing our best to offer different experiences. We want there to be a play option for everyone.”

This year’s park projects include:

Villa Park: Located off Mormon Trek Boulevard on MacBride Street, Villa Park is a hidden gem on the west side of Iowa City.

“A lot of folks don’t even know it’s there,” Seydell Johnson said.

Villa Park is home to a new playground that will be finished in the next week or two, Seydell Johnson said. She said the old playground was, “well loved, but it was getting a little tired.”

The new playground will be bright and colorful, Seydell Johnson said.

“I think it’s just going to brighten up that whole area,” she said.

The Villa Park project, which includes paths to the park and grading work, will cost approximately $75,000.

Willow Creek Park: One of the older playgrounds in the city’s park system, everything has been demolished at this park located off West Benton Street and Mormon Trek Boulevard. When work is complete this fall, Willow Creek will be home to a new shelter, new bathrooms and a new inclusive playground with ramps to allow children of a wide range of abilities to play.

“It’s a very unique playground for us and I think people are going to enjoy that,” Seydell Johnson said.

The Willow Creek Park project will cost about $900,000, Seydell Johnson said.

Lower City Park: While many local residents were sad to see the rides at Lower City Park go last year, Seydell Johnson said the new playground there should be a crowd pleaser.

“This is an amazing concept being built into the hillside between Upper and Lower City Park,” she said.

Seydell Johnson said the hillside will offer unique play experiences and means to access the equipment. The park also will feature a “quiet area” separate from the larger structure. The entire playground is out of the flood zone along the Iowa River.

Though a playground exists at Lower City Park already, Seydell Johnson said that structure will be removed in 2020. The new playground is expected to be built in the coming months and open at the end of the summer or beginning of the fall. The project has a budget of $850,000, Seydell Johnson said.

Creekside Park: Located in the 1800 block of F Street on the east side of Iowa City, Creekside Park is another park that was rebuilt from the ground up.

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“The old playground was often flooded, even with minor storms,” Seydell Johnson said. “We moved the playground up to higher ground.”

In addition to a new playground, the park will feature new restrooms, a new shelter and a new basketball court. Next year, a community orchard will be added to the park, Seydell Johnson said. The $650,000 project is expected to be finished in the next month.

Elsewhere in the city, Happy Hollow Park on Brown Street has a new shelter and restrooms. Cardigan Park, 500 Huntington Drive, has been finished and is home to a playground, fire pit, shelter and open green space. Riverfront Crossings Park, a new park in the Riverfront Crossings District, is scheduled to have a grand opening July 20.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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