Kiwanis look for park to call their own

Friday, December 13, 2002

The Cape Girardeau Kiwanis Club wants a place to call its own. Cherokee Park, members figure, is as good a place as any.

The club has the means and the motivation to improve and develop Cherokee Park, which has entry points from Perryville and Lexington roads. Within months, the park could be the first in the city named after a service organization.

A Kiwanis Club committee has given a serious, albeit unofficial, proposal to the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that includes a $70,000 up-front donation and further annual contributions. The $70,000 would likely go toward the replacement of a pavillion and an area for skateboarding.

In return, the committee is asking that the name of the park be changed to Kiwanis Park as recognition of the donations.

The parks board has wrestled with the idea of naming rights during its past two meetings.

While the parks board would be happy to see the improvements, particularly considering the city's tight financial situation, it is hesitating to give the club the thumbs-up on changing the name of the park.

By naming a park after an organization, the board would be setting a precedent, and the board is working on trying to set some guidelines or structure for naming parks after organizations based on donations.

Numerous donations have been made to the parks department over the years, and some of them are noted on plaques throughout the parks. The Evening Optimists have a plaque on a shelter at Cherokee Park. The city golf course is named after the Jaycees, but that club purchased the course and handed the management over to the city, parks board chairman Rocky Hayes said."Changing the name of a park is a pretty serious matter," Hayes said. "There is a lot of tradition and familiarity associated with a park, and any time there is a proposal like this, there are a lot of things to consider."

Hayes said the board is flattered with the Kiwanis' proposal, "but we're being cautious. There are some differences in opinions, I guess."

Looking for details

Though some said they were willing to take the club at its word based on the numerous donations it has made over the years, other board members were uncomfortable with the proposal, saying it did not provide enough details. The proposal does not specify how much money would be donated on an annual basis.

"It needs to have more structure, not necessarily more money," said parks board member Jeff Glenn.

Tom Ward, a Kiwanis member who organized the committee that is looking into the Cherokee Park deal, said he didn't know yet how much money could be donated on an annual basis.

Most of the club's revenue comes from weekly bingo nights. All the proposal says is that "the Kiwanis Club would continue to donate over the next 10 years, provided revenues from bingo remain stable." It also said the club would have members provide labor for annual beautification projects.

Ward underscored that this was not an official proposal from the Kiwanis. The proposal would have to be approved by the entire club before it would be considered a legitimate offer. But Ward said the proposal is "very serious," the rest of the club seems to be in favor of improving the park and a formal vote could come in the next two months.

"We've been active with the parks for years," said Ward, who noted that the Kiwanis Club funded the grandstands at Capaha Park in 1949. "Cherokee Park is something we'd be interested in and we wanted to concentrate on one park.

"We'd kind of like to have our name on it because we have done a lot of park work and this would be a way to give us some credit. People often ask what the Kiwanis do, and maybe this will make them more aware of what we do and how much Cape means to us. And maybe we can look back and tell our grandkids what we've done for Cape."

Skateboarders' place

Skateboarders here would be elated to have as much as a slab and a couple of rails to call their own. Many have actively lobbied the city to fund a skate park, but the city says it does not have enough money.

"I don't care how big it is," said Jarred Harris, 16, of Cape Girardeau. Harris was a part of a group that, a few months ago, tried to organize a fund-raising campaign for a skate park. "We'll appreciate anything we get seeing how hard it is to raise money. We'll be happy to have somewhere to go where we won't be kicked off."

There has been no discussion, parks director Dan Muser said, on how much money would go toward a shelter and how much would go toward skateboard equipment.

Muser said shelter replacements, depending on the size of the structure, could range anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 if the work is done by the city.

That would leave anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000 for the skateboard portion.

That wouldn't fund a major skate park, unless the city provided the labor. A large skate park in Columbia, Mo., cost just $64,000 to build using city employees. The same park would cost about $300,000 if it was contracted out, said Columbia park development superintendent Steve Saitta.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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