In Kingman, Ariz., there are 14 parks, two aquatic facilities, a splash pad and an 18-hole golf course. There are multiple ramadas, or public shade structures, and picnic areas with mountain views.
Centennial Park has a 0.9-mile natural surface walking path along with a softball complex with seven fields. There is a seven-field baseball complex at Southside Park. Two separate hiking and mountain biking trails wind throughout the city — the Beale Loop Trail system with four loop trails that are a total of 9.8 miles in length and the White Cliffs Wagon Wheels Trail system, which is close to the downtown area and currently totals 2.93 miles. This White Cliffs Wagon Wheels Trail was just recently constructed during phase one of the project by the American Conservation Experience as part of a $68,000 Arizona State Parks and Trails grant.
Even with all of these already-existing amenities, a new piece of play ware was recently installed at Metcalfe Park in Kingman ‑ rock climbing equipment. Mike Meersman, director of parks, recreation, aquatics and golf, described the inspiration for the idea.
“We have many large rock formations and cliffs in the mountains in our area, we thought it would be a great fit. Metcalfe Park is next to a high school, so we’ve been looking at play equipment that is durable enough to handle that size of kid and still can be enjoyed by younger kids.”
A Kingman council member had seen rock climbing play equipment in another city and recommended that his parks department look into it as a possibility. Coincidentally, when this suggestion was made, Meersman said, “I had recently gone to the Grand Teton National Park. In a park in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyo., they had the same boulder apparatus that we ended up getting and they had several more even larger than ours. My family enjoyed climbing on them, and there were many other people climbing on them and having a lot of fun.” He decided to broach the topic of rock-climbing equipment in a local park.
In order to install new equipment, the list of parks identified for upgrades and improvements are reviewed as well as the apparatuses suggested for those improvements. The parks and playgrounds are visited to see if the suggested improvements are a viable option. The city council then discusses the needs of the parks and the city and votes whether to approve the purchase of the apparatuses.
When preparing to install the rock-climbing equipment in Metcalfe Park, Meersman said the park department followed the appropriate safety specifications recommended by the manufacturer of the boulder apparatus. As an added safety precaution, the city extended the fall zone beyond the recommended amount.
Besides providing children with a new and different way to play, the boulder apparatus also assisted with water conservation by eliminating some areas of turf and, therefore, needed irrigation. Where the boulder apparatuses were installed, there had previously been 3,000 square feet of turf that required daily irrigation.
As Meersman explained, “Water is a precious commodity in our area, as it is everywhere. We work hard to conserve water in everything we do.”
Kingman employs water conservation efforts throughout its park system. Moisture meters are in place to identify when irrigation is needed, daily irrigation run-time audits are done, and irrigation system performance audits are completed. The city is incorporating drought tolerant seed in its parks, turning turf areas back to desert landscape and implementing cultural practices improving water use.
The city is also constructing storm water retention areas in play areas. Large pools have been constructed to contain the water for a long period so as to replenish the aquifer, and the remainder is released slowly downstream. Dry wells are in place in storm water retention areas to help minimize flooding to neighbors downstream and provide less cleanup after monsoon storms. These measures mean that the playground is able to be played on soon after a rainfall and the turf condition is healthier.
In response to the new addition to Metcalfe Park, Meersman said the department has received lots of positive feedback. On trips past the park, he has personally seen kids climbing and playing on the new boulder apparatus.
In addition to the new installations in Metcalfe Park, Kingman has upgraded playground apparatuses at several other parks and installed shade structures over the playgrounds in five additional parks, with two more playgrounds slated to have one built. Because of the Arizona heat, playground equipment can become dangerously hot without any shade structures; they not only make it safer for the children who are playing but also extend the life of the equipment.
On the newly constructed White Cliffs Wagon Wheels Trail system, the American Conservation Experience is spending the fall and winter months constructing eight more loop trails totaling 6.3 miles, which is part of Phase Two of the $260,000 project with the Arizona State Parks and Trails grant. The new trails will connect the downtown area to uptown.
According to Meersman, the goal of the parks department is “to have a safe, clean environment in our parks for our patrons and staff, promoting health and wellness activities.” With the updates to Kingman parks as well as the new play equipment, they have become a popular and well-used asset for the community.