The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 14, 2013

Development considered in city parks

Parks board finalizes review of new shelter rental policy

OTTUMWA — Three more city parks went under the microscope to see what improvements could be made.

The Parks Advisory Board continued its examination of the 2006 long-range parks plan at its meeting this week — reviewing Hillcrest, Jefferson and Memorial Parks.

Jefferson Park, which sits at Jefferson and Gara Streets, moved to the top of their priority list.

“It’s a park a lot of people don’t know about,” said board member Sarah Sels.

A tree fell on the playground equipment, crushing it, and the basketball court needs to be expanded, said Parks Director Gene Rathje.

“It’s sunk in so water pools on the court,” he said. “The asphalt itself is OK but it’s too small and has sunk down in the turf too far so it doesn’t drain when it rains.”

Joni Elder suggested that the parks department consider installing a splash pad in the park, a type of wading pool with a fountain and no standing water, therefore lifeguards are not necessary.

“The little kids would come because all the options they have are The Beach [Ottumwa] right now,” Elder said. “Then you have benches for parents. You would spend approximately the same amount as you would for playground equipment, but there would probably be more activity.”

Hillcrest Park, often referred to as Reservoir Park, is located on North Court Street between Maple Avenue and Albany Street.

“When Mike Heffernan took over [Water Works], he sent us a letter discouraging us of doing any more heavy construction work on the park because of the condition of the roof of the water tank,” Rathje said.

Below the park sits a large water reservoir, therefore anything new constructed on the park cannot go deeper than 1.5 feet into the soil.

“We could put playground equipment in, but most of the footings of those are deep,” Rathje said.

Board president Bob Beisch suggested putting a couple of youth soccer fields in the park, though Rathje worried that the high traffic on North Court Street and the steepness of the hill would send soccer balls flying into the street and put children in danger.

Rathje also suggested building a better basketball court and board member Robert LaPoint suggested installing exercise equipment.

Memorial Park, which sits between Jefferson and Elm Streets, has seen a lot of additions and improvements since the plan was developed seven years ago, including parking, signage, hiking trails, resurfaced tennis courts, new playground equipment, a new disc golf course and the recently completed mountain bike trail.

“I think we’ve actually done better with Memorial Park than we had proposed,” Beisch said.

The board did not see any other significant changes they would like to make to Memorial Park at this time.

Rathje also updated the board on the new park shelter reservation policy, which will allow “major city events” at Jimmy Jones Shelter (such as Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July celebration, Labor Day weekend, Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races and Race for the Cure) the opportunity to reserve the shelter immediately following their event for the following year.

All other reservations for park shelters within the park system can be done on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8 a.m. Jan. 2 every year.

The policy also allows the Ottumwa American Legion and VFW free usage and a permanent reservation of the Jimmy Jones Shelter for their joint annual Memorial Day Event.

Councilman Brian Morgan reminded the board that an event can be political in nature as long as the city does not put any dollars toward it, which includes the event itself, fencing, security, etc. He also referred to something former police chief Jim Clark said: the police will be at a large gathering no matter who paid for it in order to keep the peace and control crowds.

“The question arose when the unions held their [Labor Day] event, asked some people to speak and denied others,” Beisch said. “They should be able to do that.”

Sels agreed, saying if the UFCW Local 230 paid to reserve the shelter and paid for the event, they can allow to speak whomever they choose.

“Whoever rents it for the day and insures it, technically as long as they’re not breaking the law, it’s theirs for the day,” Morgan said.

Any event that wants to apply to reserve Jimmy Jones a year in advance must submit their request to the board within 30 days of the event. The board will then approve or deny the request. Anything can be appealed to the Ottumwa City Council, Rathje said.

The board also approved two-year lease agreements for baseball fields for eight teams: National Little League, Midwest Little League, Adult Softball, Girl’s Softball, YMCA Youth Sports at Wildwood Park, Babe Ruth, American Legion and Ottumwa High School.

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