By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Children on the east side of Havre may soon have a nicer place to play. Havre Mayor Bob Rice hopes to revamp the park in the the 1100 block of First Street - once known as Tourist Park - beginning this summer.
"Right now it's useless," Rice said this week. There is a rusty swing set with only one swing, and bars for a teeter-totter without the boards.
"Kids can't play there," he said, adding that the parks on the east side of town "are not as nice as some of our other parks, so I'd like to see them upgraded."
At the Havre City Council meeting Monday night, Rice and community member Charlie Grant discussed possibilities for the park, located south of First Street between Kim's Sculptured Nails & Hair and Nalivka's Original Pizza Kitchen.
The narrow park stretches between First and Second streets, and is divided by an alley.
Rice said he wants initial additions to the half of the park between Second Street and the alley to include a new teeter-totter, swings and a sandbox.
The half north of the alley will eventually sport picnic benches, a canopy and barbecue pits. The 10-foot-tall wooden "Welcome to Havre" sign will be replaced with a more attractive sign, and the pipe fence along the alley may also be replaced. Right now the sign "doesn't say much for us," Rice said. Eventually, he said, he would like to see lighting put in the park as well.
"If we're going to have this property, I think we need to take care of it," he said.
Rice said he has been interested in doing something with the park for a long time. Recent community interest and two possible donors to help fund the facelift brought the issue to a head.
Grant told the council he collected more than 60 signatures last week from business owners and residents around the park who would like to see it cleaned up. Grant collected the signatures after out-of-town visitors at Stromberg's Sinclair told him they would eat lunch at the park if there were some tables there.
"I didn't find one detractor. They all thought it was a great idea," Grant said. "I was talking to some of the downtown merchants along the street there, and I even had one gentleman that said he would make some contributions toward it, really wanted it bad."
Rice said he had been approached by a second possible donor.
The scope of the project will depend partly on funding from outside sources.
"You probably know there's no money for the project, so we'll figure out how we're going to do it, and I think we can get that park fixed up at least presentable," Rice said. "We will do something either way with this park."
Pat Jensen, co-owner of Nalivka's, said fixing up the park would be good for business.
"It'd be nice, especially when it's nice out - people can grab their pizza and go and eat. And parks always look better when they're cleaned up," Jensen said. He said he signed the petition to clean up the park.
"Well, quite a few kids play over there," he added.
Mike Wilson, who lives less than a block away from the park on Second Street, said his 9-year-old son would play there more often if the park was fixed up.
"I'm not really the park kind, but I'm sure he'd like it," he said. Wilson said he would feel fine about letting his son play at the park as long as it was during the day.
Both City Council members from the Fourth Ward - which includes the park - said they support the idea.
"Many many years ago it used to be a really nice park," said council member Emily Mayer, who said she remembers playing there when she was little. "Then it kind of went downhill."
"I think it's nice for us to take a property that's been neglected for a number of years and turn it into something that's really nice," Mayer said, adding that she hopes this project will lead to more beautification projects on the east end of town.
"I think it's a great idea," council member Allen Woodwick said. "It's kind of a forgotten little park. I think anything we can do for the kids, I'm all for it."