Blue Springs families and local officials gathered Wednesday afternoon for a rededication of Ward Park.
The new facility incorporates a nature theme, including rock structures that feature facts about animals. It also hosts a musical area, where children can play large drums and a xylophone.
According to city Park Director Dennis Dovel, the department wanted to emphasize the park as not just a place for play but also learning. With this goal in mind, officials began planning last October and solicited feedback from residents along the way.
“A park is the backbone of what a community wants when it comes to quality of life,” Dovel said. “Residents have a certain expectation for facilities where they can bring their families.”
Dovel cites this mindset as a major motivation behind the one-half cent sales tax for parks that voters passed in April 2017. He started to champion the proposal, which now generates $3 million annually, after stepping into his position six years ago.
At that point, Dovel remembers conducting analysis to compare Blue Springs parks with those in similar areas. He found that nearly all systems were in a “significant state of decline,” with Ward Park facing potential closure due to noncompliance with National Playground Safety Institute regulations.
Similarly, Blue Springs resident and mother Hope Waynick says she would not bring her son to the park before the remodel. Waynick grew up visiting the park herself, and recalls metal, rust and woodchips.
“Now, I can bring my son where I used to play,” she shared.
Dovel remains eager to give more area families this experience. The parks maintenance sales tax is part of a five-year plan, and the department remains in the beginning stages.
So far, Rotary Park has also been revamped. Next, Dovel says his team will focus on developing park systems in southern Blue Springs.
IF YOU GO
Visit Ward Park at 1000 S.W. 22 St.