New southside playground unveiled for West Liberty

Friendship Park to get upgrade this summer; pool to open as well


The restoration of a playground at Friendship Park, the opening this summer of the Kimberly Park Pool and future plans for West Liberty’s park improvements were all part of the discussion of the West Liberty Park and Recreation Board Monday, March 29.

Park Director Nick Heath said the Kimberly Park Pool will reopen this summer, although he says there may be limited hours due to a staffing shortage situation.

The highly used pool did not open last summer because of COVID-19 concerns, the city council voting against the opening, but Heath said the park board has already approved the opening and he will be working quickly to find staff and certified lifeguards as the near century old pool gets cleaned and maintained for the summer season.

Heath said he’d love to someday see a new pool or an aquatic park built on the grounds, but said there are no present plans or fundraisers set up for such a “dream” facility, noting the city will simply have to “get by for now” with what is being offered.

The director did say there are plans to renovate the Railroad Park near the Depot Museum and Heritage Park by 2025, noting the park will get a huge upgrade in playground equipment. He said the continued increased use of the three-quarter mile Heritage Trail that has the Depot on its south end creates a need for a better park in the area.

He said the project will likely cost somewhere between the $225,000 Kimberly Park playground area that opened last year and the $69,000 Friendship Park upgrade scheduled this year.

In the meanwhile, plans for the new Friendship Park playground, located on the south end of the community and a block south of the West Liberty Fire Department, are moving forward, with hopes of having the playground ready in August.

Following a recent social media survey of residents, the “second option” of a four slide, obstacle course, swing set area design was approved by the board, put together by Cunningham Recreation’s design team.

The new playground will include dual toddler swings, a 6.5 foot Schooner climber, and a giant play area with three competitive slides on one end and a smaller zip slide on the back side. The playground will have a all kinds of obstacles youths can climb and test their mobility and coordination including a funnel climber and all kinds of areas to test their imagination, have fun and meet other kids, according to Heath.

He said there are no plans at the present time for benches, but said they will eventually be included in the design once it has been tentatively set in place.

Funded mainly by the city and $30,000 in matching funds from the Joseph & Edward Ryan Trust foundation in the community, the new playground will be set up for youngsters basically from ages two to five, with some opportunities for older children as well. Heath also unveiled that the board is alsp looking into building a half-court basketball play area as part of the project, something older children and even adults could use.

“We’ve been needing something more there for some time,” Heath said of the park he estimates was initially built in the early 1990’s. “There really isn’t much there, so this will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.”

The city will begin tearing out the old equipment in late May or early June as Heath said there will have to be some grading work done in the area. He said the committee is still working out plans on where everything will go and pointed out the playing surface will be wood chips.

He said the work will be done by professional contractors, noting he won’t take a chance with volunteers as long as the pandemic exists, but also noted it’s better to use professionals who do playground installations as their job than trying to put together a team of volunteers who have never done that type of work. “If it’s something on a small scale, volunteers can usually handle it,” he said.

Members of the park board include President J.J. Garcia as well as Megan Jensen Zalzala, Mike Duytschaver, Ashley Kaalberg and Kathy Garrdio.