Many Great Bend residents, young and old alike, can recall either playing on or taking kids to play on the old helicopter, car and other toys at the northeast corner of Veterans Memorial Park.
Now, the vehicles that fueled many an imagination have faded and deteriorated in the Kansas sun. But, a community project long in the works to upgrade the playground equipment is underway.
“We’ve been working on this for about two years now,” said Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler. He and his crew were at Vets Wednesday afternoon with a front-end loader and a truck to remove the features and rubber mats to be hauled away for disposal.
“They are at least 15 years old,” Keeler said. They were cracked, worn and falling apart.
But, fret not parents and grandparents.
Keeler said the new, colorful equipment with structures, swings and other items are coming soon. The area will be made handicapped accessible, with designated parking, ramps, a sidewalk and a specially designed swing.
Weather permitting, his staff will pour concrete and prepare the site Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25. After that, Public Works will install the fixtures under the supervision of manufacturer Landscape Structures from Delano, Minn.
“This will be a nice, little toddler playground,” said Great Bend Recreation Commission Executive Director Diann Henderson. She will have personnel helping with the site prep as well.
It features “smart play structures” including of a fire station and playhouse loft in addition to an updating of the current toddler swings and a xylophone-like instrument. “These are packed with a lot of activities and interactive elements,” she said.
The $87,000 revamping of the area is a joint venture, Henderson said. “We are excited to assist the city and the Golden Belt Community Foundation in bringing another new ‘play’ feature to Great Bend.”
The project was born of GBRC's conversions with the city. "We saw a need," Henderson said.
The project is funded in part by the Great Bend Recreation Commission which kicked in $53,700 and a foundation grant providing $34,047 for the new playground equipment and surfacing. The city is providing the landscaping, site work and concrete work for this new playground project.
The Kiwanis Club is sponsoring additional benches around the new area.
The grand opening being organized by the Rec Commission is still a few weeks away, since the concrete has to cure before the fixtures and rubberized surface can be installed. But, Henderson said they are willing to wait.
“We’ve been delaying this for two months,” she said of the installation stymied by the weather. The new equipment has been in Great Bend for several weeks already.
In the future, Henderson said they will be working with the Kiwanis Club to add some sort of shade feature, perhaps even trees.