The picnic pavilion in Liberal’s Light Park. Light Park was another of the area parks that received extensive renovations, including the new Girl Scout Building. L&T photos/Elly Grimm
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Most people in cities see their local parks as a haven to spend a day at or for kids to play around. Liberal is no exception.
The quality of the local parks had been deteriorating between the 1980s and the early 2000s and the parks department is currently working through its long range plan to get all of the parks in top shape.
The plan, approved around 2010, was a top priority of City Manager Mark Hall when he took office almost six years ago, according to Parks Director Bill Houk.
“We set up, went over all the parks, the needs of the parks and came up with a long-range plan,” Houk said.
With the long range plan, the Parks department started with the now renovated Light Park, which is the oldest park in Liberal. Houk said the condition of the park was so deteriorated that it was almost abandoned.
“It had no irrigation, weeds, it was an abandoned park almost, so our high priority was to get Light Park fixed up,” Houk said. “So we put in irrigation, put seed in, put shelters in it, a water park in it, the new Girl Scout building. So that was a high priority, and we got it done.”
The department plans to add several renovations to several of the parks, including new restrooms, new seed and irrigation and new playground equipment.
Projects on the parks that have already been completed aside from Light Park include renovations to Blue Bonnett Park and Tobias Park.
Houk said the department was able to come up with its plan by listening to citizens on what they wanted for the parks.
“We had the Focus on the Future committee,” he added. “This is all being done with the 1-cent sales tax, so the Focus on the Future had a lot of input. Gary Scott at the time, who was the recreation director, and Mark Hall – we all sat down and looked at the needs and Joe Sealey. too – what needed to be done to make a better quality of life for Liberal, and Parks and Rec has put a lot of emphasis on that.”
After finishing some repairs and maintenance at the Adventure Bay water park (which Houk says is coming along very well), the Parks Department will soon be working on Leete Park, which is Liberal’s newest park.
Exercise equipment and a restroom have currently been installed. Remaining parts of the Leete Park project include the addition of two soccer fields, two ball fields, a sand volleyball pit, basketball courts and the parking lot. He said the department hopes to be completely finished with Leete Park in the next 60 to 90 days.
One thing Houk said he is looking forward to about Leete Park is installing is a splash pad, which, if successful, will be installed in other parks around Liberal as well.
Houk said the department hopes to have all of these projects completed in the next four years, but added unexpected projects could happen.
“Right now we’ve changed plans, and we’re working on the shooting range – we have renovations going on at the shooting range,” he said. “So it depends what they throw at us because things change.”
Fitness and playground equipment waits to be put together at Leete Park in south Liberal. Many of the area parks are getting renovations due to declining quality in past years. There was also a line of cedar trees planted around the park area.