Little Rhody Park gets second life

December 4, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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A public land parcel in the west end of the city will get some kid-friendly park improvements in 2014.

The City Council allocated $60,000 in its 2014 budget for the development of Little Rhody Park, at Southeast 80th Street and 113th Avenue Southeast intersection.

“It means a lot to the residents on that side of the city,” said Newcastle Public Works Director Mark Rigos, who worked closely with neighbors to craft a vision for the park.

The land is currently little more than dirt and shrubs. Improvements will come in the form of a playground geared toward children ages 5-12.

It will serve the approximately 30 children in the neighborhood who previously had to walk about a mile to find a playground, said Danny Finan, one of the residents that worked with Rigos on the plans.

“This playground upgrade is seen as an investment in child safety,” he said.

Plans for park improvements began more than a year ago, Finan said, after Rigos approached the neighborhood about the underutilized space.

They came up with a blueprint that included playground equipment, a half-court basketball court and a children’s climbing wall.

Finan pooled donations from fellow neighbors eager to see the park become a reality. The neighborhood, which doesn’t have a formal homeowner’s association, rallied to come up with a small, but promising fund balance.

“I suggested we collect money and present it to the city as a show of good faith,” Finan said. “I was truly amazed at how many neighbors came forward with monetary contributions.”

The city applied for a King County Youth Sports Facilities grant to fund the estimated $135,000 project. The initial intent was that if that grant was approved, the project would move forward in 2014. If it wasn’t, it would get delayed.

In October, the city was informed it did not get the grant, However, the City Council, moved by a showing of several neighbors at the Nov. 19 meeting, agreed to allocate $60,000 of city funds.

“Since we don’t have much over there, I think it’s a good fit and I think it’s prudent for us to do,” Councilman John Dulcich said.

Rather than asking the neighborhood to contribute from its pooled funds for the project, City Council members said they preferred residents provide some “sweat equity” when work begins to install the park.

Rigos said he was hopeful the playground upgrades would be finished by next summer. Until then, the next steps are to create a site plan, select playground equipment and come up with a formal name for the park.

The naming process will likely go through the Community Activities Commission in conjunction with the neighborhood, but Little Rhody Park, a reference to a nearby rhododendron farm, seems to be the favorite, Finan said.

The neighborhood would still like to see the upgrades outlined in the original plan, Finan said, but for now, the playground equipment is a sincerely welcomed start.

“Now we know what is possible and we’ll hopefully make incremental upgrades in the future,” he said. “This is a tremendous first step and we are grateful.”

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