The City of Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission has identified Municipal Park as a top priority for upgrades and plans on adding a playground for young children ages 2-5 this summer.
At the Feb. 19 city council meeting, council member Terry Bookey, the parks and recreation commission liaison, said the commission would like to meet more than the scheduled six times a year because of the number of projects they would like to accomplish this year.
The commission last met on Feb. 6 to discuss Capital Improvement Projects for 2014, which included playground upgrades to Municipal Park. The commission does not meet again until April 3. Bookey said the commission would like to meet every month with the exception of July.
“They would rather have the option of canceling a meeting instead of scheduling special meetings,” he said. “Due to constraints placed on special meetings, you can only talk about specific topics addressed. In July there is so much going on with the personal use fishery, the parks and recreation department is so busy they would not be able to participate.”
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said July is such a hectic month for his department with more than 50 percent of his staff involved with the dipnet fishery cleanup.
“July is just a crazy busy month for everybody,” he said. “(Dipnet season) takes up a lot of resources from parks to police. After an action packed month we take a step back after the dust clears.”
Bookey said Kenai residents have been looking for a playground for young children between the ages of 2-5. The current playground at Municipal Park is intended for children ages 5-12.
At the Feb. 5 city council meeting, council members made recommendations to city manager Rick Koch on a budget of $50,000 for playground equipment and a total budget of no more than $120,000 including installation.
The council made recommendations for specific types of equipment, like a duo seesaw, animal rockers and an up-and-over play system. Frates said he is now in the process of soliciting the playground manufacturers for proposals.
The commission will then make their recommendations for which equipment will fit within the budget, Bookey said. Before any money is expended the council will have to approve it because it is not in the budget right now, he said.
Bookey said the commission may have funds available for this fiscal year 2014 to accomplish the priorities at Municipal Park, but are waiting to see what the numbers are.
“In the discussions, the commission felt (Municipal Park) was a project not yet complete,” he said. “Instead of moving on to work on another park, will work on Municipal Park and find a way to address the 2-5 year old age and make it complete.”
The proposed 2-5 year old play area site is in the field next to the current playground.
Council member Mike Boyle said he has heard complaints from older kids that want open green space. New playground equipment in the park would take away open green space for the older kids who like to “play with a stick and ball,” he said.
Council member Brian Gabriel said the public has made it known they want younger playground equipment and there are a couple ball fields in town.
Frates said in addition to adding a playground at Municipal Park, the department plans to extend a trail segment to connect the park to old town from North Spruce Street to South Forest Drive. Another proposed trail extension is a continuation of Shquitsatnu Creek Trail from Fourth Avenue to Second Avenue back to the Spur Highway. He said the projects have not been approved yet but he expects them to be completed this year.
“We have a couple ideas unfolding this summer that the commission will take a look at,” he said. “Having a trail connect old town to the ball fields and Municipal Park has real potential for the community.”
Bookey said the commission’s second priority is upgrades to Beaver Creek Park and in the future would like to make upgrades to the skate park.
Beaver Creek Park, which serves Kenai residents in the Beaver Loop area, is another vital neighborhood park on the commission’s radar for improvement, Frates said. It is an older park developed in the 1960’s that has proven its worth but residents have expressed a desire for upgrades, he said.
While the commission also identified the skate park for upgrades with user’s requesting the addition of street elements like benches and railings, Frates said there is no money available for that project this year.
Council member Tim Navarre said he was in favor of any park improvements.
“I do like doing more things to improve the quality of life of our residents,” he said. “It is positive for the community.”
Reach Dan Balmer at email@example.com.