Ship docks in city park
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Feb 15, 2013, 14:55
photo by Caitlin Davis The new ship at City Park in Hopewell has a slide and rock climbing wall.
HOPEWELL — Down by the water at City Park sits a wooden ship for the children of Hopewell to set sail with their imagination. The ship, part of a partnership with Hopewell Recreation and Parks and The Hopewell Downtown Partnership, is just another step towards the Playground Initiative in the city.
Recreation and Parks Director Jo Turek has been working on upgrading, updating and renovating the parks in Hopewell. She is currently lining up parks to begin working on for the new year.
“We are trying to make improvements at all of the playground sites,” Turek said, standing by the ship on Wednesday afternoon at City Park. “This site used to have playground equipment when it was a school site, so we wanted to try and bring that back.”
To put the play back into the park, Turek reached out to the Downtown Partnership and the Main Street Project for help in getting the ship docked at the park.
In August of 2012, the Downtown Partnership received a $7,500 grant that was made possible by CSX Transportation, which contributed $5,000, and the Virginia Department of Housing and Development contributed the rest at $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.
The total cost for the ship to be placed in the park was around $6,000. The remaining money for the grant will be going toward more improvements to City Park such as a bench, restrooms and a pavilion with picnic tables that will be placed by the water. They will be funded through the remaining grant money and city dollars.
Evan Kaufman, director of the Downtown Partnership, said the ship, which includes a slide and a rock climbing wall, is a visible project for the residents of Hopewell, a visible project that Kaufman said will help change the face of downtown.
photo by Caitlin Davis Evan Kaufman, director of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership and Jo Turek, director of Recreation and Parks, stick their heads out of the new ship that has docked at City Park.
“We wanted something that was visible and this at this site because this is an open area,” Kaufman said. “We’d like to have it included as part of the downtown.”
Kaufman said he wants the residents of the city to not only visit downtown, but to take advantage of the water access. He said it also represents what he is trying to accomplish downtown.
“This is our closet river access to the downtown,” Kaufman said in the park on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s right there and probably half the city doesn’t even know it’s there, and so if we could start to take advantage of this area more in terms of community gatherings and outdoor recreational sports, I think that will tie into the types of businesses that we’re hoping to pursue in downtown, so it would be a compliment to one another to have more business and health focused initiatives and being outdoors.”
At Recreation and Parks, Turek is also working on bringing more health-based programs to the city, such as Goodbody Fitness, which includes kickboxing and water aerobics classes.
“The more you touch people with this information and provide it, the more people have a better understanding of what’s available to them and what’s out there,” Turek said.
Turek, who said when the weather is nice has seen many families playing on the ship and making pirate noises, also wants to change the outdoors in the city for the residents.
“And with childhood obesity, what better way for a kid to have fun, and they don’t realize they’re burning calories while they’re doing it and it helps them with their stamina and helps from an educational standpoint. A healthy child means a healthy mind and body, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Currently, Turek is looking at Woodlawn, City Point, Davisville and Union Hill parks as the next parks to be a part of the Playground Initiative. Turek said right now she is reaching out to neighborhood watch groups and other local organizations for feedback on what to put at the parks and what improvements need to be made.
Once the list of improvements and upgrades is finalized, Turek said she will start looking at grants and funding that are available to begin work on the parks.
Turek said the help of grants and community support on City Park and the recent updates to Mathis Pirate Park Playground totaled $65,000.
Some of the improvements that have made the list are a mini multi-purpose field at City Point park, benches at Davisville park for the spectators due to the large basketball court and new asphalt at Woodlawn.
In addition to funding, Turek is also looking for community partners for these projects. She said that is what the Playground Initiative is all about.
“It’s all about the community. It really is,” Turek said. “We’ve involved the community in all aspects.”
That community involvement went into the ship being built at City Park. Hopewell’s Public Works Department, Riverside Regional Jail and members of Recreation and Parks were on hand in November to get the ship up and ready to set sail.
Recreation Maintenance Supervisor Steve Howard was part of the community that helped put the ship together. He said the five-man crew spent three days in the park.
“It’s great,” Howard said of the day he built the ship. “It’s something to do.”
In addition to Howard and the crew, Friends of the Lower Appomattox, Vulcan, Virginia Power and Virginia American Water also contributed to the improvements at City Park.
“FOLAR has done a lot of work down here to maintain the site,” Kaufman said. “They originally cleared out a lot of the brush and foliage that was here before people knew it was a park.”
photo by Caitlin Davis The ship will also soon have a name. A volunteer with the downtown partnership has started a friendly competition in the schools to allow students to come up with their ideas for the name of the ship.
Turek, Kaufman and Howard stood inside the ship on Wednesday afternoon, and while the three made their own pirate noises, they were also excited for the future of the park.
“Once we get the shelter here and the picnic table, you’ll see more people that are drawn to the water that would have to have a place to sit and take a reprieve for 30 minutes during lunch and watch the world go by.”