Cape may seek federal grant to improve park

Monday, September 20, 2004

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

Kiwanis Park would get a major upgrade if Cape Girardeau secures a $148,500 National Park Service grant. The money would help construct picnic shelters, playground structures, new restrooms and a gravel road that would connect to the main park road.

The Cape Girardeau City Council will vote tonight on a resolution to seek the grant.

"Basically we just need more things there for people to use," said parks and recreation director Dan Muser.

The entire project is expected to cost $330,000 with the matching funds coming from the city and the Cape Girardeau Kiwanis Club, Muser said.

Muser said the city proposes to spend $72,500 in in-house labor by parks and recreation staff and $109,000 in cash from the Kiwanis Club.

There's no guarantee the city will receive the grant, but there is nothing to lose by applying, Muser said. The National Park Service is expected to decide on the grant application by next spring, he said.

Kiwanis Park, which borders both Lexington Avenue and Perryville Road on the city's north side, currently has a restroom building, three picnic shelters and a playground structure.

"We used to have two other playgrounds there," Muser said. "The other two were wooden ones. They basically rotted away."

The proposed improvements would be toward the south end of the park. "It would be back at the top of the hill above the pond," Muser said.

Even though the city wants to upgrade the park, there are no plans to add recreation fields.

"The plan is to keep it more of a passive recreation," he said. "It is really one of the nicer places to have a picnic."

City officials said that without the support of the Kiwanis Club, the city couldn't provide the local match needed to apply for the federal money.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said the possibility of securing the federal grant shows the value of public-private partnerships.

The city council voted last year to rename Cherokee Park as Kiwanis Park in exchange for a commitment by the civic club to donate $150,000 initially to improve the grounds. The $109,000 for the proposed park improvements is part of that commitment, city officials said.

Muser said the civic club already has donated more than $40,000, money that was spent on building a picnic shelter and improving the pond.

"The old Cherokee Park was a beautiful park, but due to lack of funds we were unable to develop it," Knudtson said.

"Some people don't understand the name change. Some people thought we were selling out to commercialism," the mayor said.

But Knudtson said it was the only way the city could adequately develop the hilly park.

While other Cape Girardeau parks also have needs, the mayor said, Kiwanis Park is the only one that has a built-in private funding source.

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