Two Hopewell Parks Ready for Makeovers
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 1, 2012, 13:09
photo by Caitin Davis Evan Kaufman, Interim Director of the Downtown Partnership talks with Jo Turek, Director of Recreation and Parks by the banks of the Appomattox at City Park in Hopewell.
Mathis Park in Hopewell has been through a long journey to reach its current position on the brink of change.
As Jo Turek, Director of Recreation and Parks, stood at what will be the site of a new playground at Mathis Park, she recalled that journey and looked to the future of the parks in Hopewell.
Two years ago, the installation of a concession stand and restroom facility at Mathis Park resulted in the removal of the playground and a basketball court. The playground was never replaced, until now.
“Way back then, we knew we needed to replace the playground,” Turek said.
Mathis Park Pirate Playground will be put in on Oct. 13 during a community build. Currently, Turek is reaching out to the schools and civic organizations to help work for play.
In June, the recreation department was awarded with a $20,000 “Let’s Play City” construction grant from Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, DPS, and National non-profit KaBOOM. This grant is part of the Let’s Play initiative, a national campaign with DPS to promote physical activity amongst children.
“With the fundings and grant,s we have kick-started the playground campaign,” Turek said.
The community has also banded together to help with the playground campaign. The John Randolph Foundation has agreed to match donations up to $15,000. The city has also allocated $15,000 to the parks department. The Rotary Club of Hopewell pitched in with a check for $2000. Turek said the parks department has received $6000 in donations so far.
“There has been great interest from the community to be a part of building more playground sites,” Turek said.
The playground will not only be for children, but adults as well. Turek said there will be exercise stations that adults can use while watching their children play on the new playground.
She said the department is striving to get all the park facilities updated and hopes to complete two parks a year. She said it is possible all parks in the city will be updated by 2016. The estimated costs to update all nine in parks in Hopewell is $500,000.
“I just want to get things done for the kids,” Turek said. “...we will continue to use the master plan and other tools to map out the next playground site. We are so grateful that people come together and step up to the plate to help us do this.”
City Park, located on the banks of the Appomattox, is also in line for a facelift. Evan Kaufman, Interim Director for the Downtown Partnership, discussed the arrival of a ship children will be able to set sail on the park.
The play ship, designed to represent the Good Ship Hopewell that brought the Eppes family to the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers, will include a plank, a rock wall, canopy, slides and swings.
Kaufman said he hopes it will increase more attention to downtown Hopewell.
“It is strategic for the downtown redevelopment plan,” Kaufman said.
The City Park playground was started by a $7,500 grant made possible by CSX Transportation, which contributed $5,000, and the Virginia Department of Housing and Development, which contributed the remaining $2,500, as part of the Virginia Main Street Project, which received an additional $500,000 in funding from the General Assembly. The Downtown Partnership was eligible for the grant by being a Main Street designated community.
A community meeting was held at the Beacon to discuss what people in Hopewell would like to see at City Park. Kaufman said many wanted to keep the park open and have many environmental elements such as a place for bird watching.
photo by Caitlin Davis The new model ship that children will play on will be designed to represent the Good Ship Hopewell that brought the city’s founders up the river to City Point in the 1600s.
Where exactly the ship will lay anchor at City Park is still up for discussion. Turek and Kaufman said the location is not nailed down yet. It also remains to be seen when the ship will come into port.
Kaufman said he is looking forward to the arrival of the new attraction, which he hopes will bring more people to the park, an area he describe as a hidden secret.
“I want to bring awareness to this area,” Kaufman said. “Half of Hopewell doesn’t even know this exists, that you can come to a beach or bring your kayak or paddle boat...you don’t have to drive a million miles to get to the water. We want to encourage more people down here.”
Kaufman said the Downtown Partnership is also working on making outdoor recreation a part of downtown Hopewell by brining outdoor recreation stores to the area.
A proposed river walk from the Bluffs to Patrick Copeland will also attract people to the waterfront. March Altman, Assistant City Manger, applied for a Transportation and Enhancement Grant to fund the project last year. While it was denied, Altman is looking for other ways to get the project off the ground.
“Right now, we are looking for funding sources to help with design and implementation,” Altman said. “We need to find sources of funding to help move this project forward.”
The cost of this project will be about $6 million. Altman said discussions for the river walk have been taking place since the downtown plan from 2003.
“A river walk or trail on the river has always been an effort of the downtown development effort,” Altman said.
Kaufman said he most wants to bring a sense of community back to downtown Hopewell.
“We want to bring back some of that community spirit,” Kaufman said. “This city was built on that pioneering spirit...There are great people in this community, they really care about their neighbor...they care, so let’s band that energy together and keep pushing forward. We can’t get down on things in the past. You’ve got to keep moving forward.”