At the end of last week, Burlington parks staff met with city engineers to figure out a timeline for improvements to DeEdwin and Gladys White Memorial Park.
They came away with good news for South Hill residents: The park should get a total rebuild by the end of the year.
Burlington has about $112,000 slated for park improvements. Half the money comes from a Wellmark grant, and the other half is provided by the Starker Foundation.
The park already saw the first of several planned improvements earlier this year. A new shelter house was erected earlier than other work so it can be used for the upcoming Juneteenth celebration June 16. The structure has full electric hook-ups ready for the event.
Other improvements will start later in the summer, according to Parks Director Eric Tysland. Work is expected to begin in July.
"We feel confident budget wise that we can get it done," Tysland said.
A basketball court behind the shelter house will be resurfaced, leveled out and re-striped. The court currently has a large depression on one side.
The other existing courts on the west end of the park will be removed, and so will the existing playground. The whole area where both features now sit will be leveled out and made into a large field for sports.
A new playground is the biggest coming improvement, and it also is the one with the most variables involved. The playground will be encircled in a paved walking path with a sidewalk leading up to it. Inside, the playground itself will have a turf surface.
It is unclear exactly what playground equipment will be installed. Tysland said there may enough money to add more equipment than previously thought.
"The playground will get done, we just ave to decide how many playground features we can afford to fit in," Tysland said.
Drinking fountains and benches also will be installed. A short wall will be built by the playground to provide seating.
The park is 1.3 acres of land.
Improvements to the park have been planned for some time, but staff were concerned about sewer lines running underneath the park. They didn't want to put work that would later need to be torn up for planned sewer separation projects.
Luckily, that shouldn't be an issue, according to City Engineer Jesse Howe. Public works staff have surveyed the area's sewers and don't believe the lines will be a problem.
Part of the sewer in the area already is separated, and another section needs only minor work. The only digging believed to be needed would be in the open play field, which wouldn't matter much to the improvements. The basketball courts, the playground and the shelter house are clear of the pipes.
"It's really nothing we need to be worried about," Howe said.
In the city's application to the Wellmark Foundation, City Planner Charlie Nichols wrote about why the population living near the park needs the improvements.
"This park is in a neighborhood with a large percentage of minorities and children, and many of those children are in single-parent households," Nichols wrote. "Access to recreational amenities is extremely important for this demographic."
In the South Hill neighborhood, 69 percent of households have an annual income below $40,000, according to Nichols. Des Moines County has the highest rate of single parent homes in Iowa, and in South Hill, 62 percent of homes with children are led by a single parent.