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Hi-Line Living: Recreating in Havre's Parks

 

September 15, 2017

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

Havre's 22 parks cover 80 acres of city ground, take 10 employees to keep up in the summer and provide a platform for baseball games, community events and places for children to have a good time.

Havre's oldest park, Simon Pepin Memorial Park, has existed for more than a century, since 1912. Pepin Park is arguably also the most-used park. Just in the last three months, Pepin has hosted "Politics in the Park," Bear Paw Credit Union for Kids Day, Montana Federation of Republican Women President Heidi Roedel, the annual Fourth of July Festival and the summer weekly music series Kicks@6. Those events are in addition to the daily use by children on the large playground, or people who hold celebratory events.

The annual Easter Egg hunts are another event that utilize at least a couple of the city parks, including Optimist and Eagles Park this year.

Other park uses include events by nearby schools, Havre Parks and Recreation Director Chris Inman said.

"The schools utilize our parks immensely. Pepin Park gets used by Lincoln-McKinley and St. Jude's. And Optimist gets used by Highland Park," Inman said. "And Memorial gets used by Sunnyside School and high schoolers come over and use the Elks court."

Inman was the director for the community pool before the former Parks and Rec director retired. The positions were eventually consolidated and Inman now has the monumental task of making sure all the parks and pool are cared for.

Inman said park maintenance work includes tasks like trimming trees or branches off trees that may pose a threat to users as well as planting and taking care of trees. Taking care of all the bathrooms - changing out toilet paper and cleaning - up keeping the sprinklers and picking up and emptying trash cans is routine for park employees as well.

"You would not believe the trash that's left in those parks," Inman said. "And others are very good about cleaning up themselves."

Park favorites, Inman said, include any of the ones with the baseball fields and tennis courts - "the kids use those an awful lot."

Slowpitch Complex, Sixth Avenue Memorial Field, Elks Park, Lions and Optimist Park all have baseball fields. Others, like Carpenter and Patterson parks have basketball courts.

Recently, Optimist Park has given people even more reason to visit. An $87,000 summer makeover of the playground has made Optimist one of the busiest, and for some, their favorite park.

Kassie Johnson of Havre was at Optimist Wednesday afternoon with her 4-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl. The boy was on the playground, going down the slides, the girl in her arms, "being sassy."

Johnson said she comes to Optimist "quite a bit now, especially since they did that update."

In the past, she said, they used other parks, but the upgrade has made Optimist everything she wants in a park. She brings her children once or twice every two weeks, she said.

For Johnson, it's the safety aspect that she likes most about the new playground.

"Right now it's a lot more safe for the kids to run around on," she said, adding that in the past she would keep a closer watch on her children because she didn't think the old playground was as safe.

Johnson thinks Optimist is as good as a park can get - it's her favorite - adding the different levels of slides offers something for the young and the older children.

Debbie Keller was also at Optimist Wednesday afternoon, with her 6- and 3-year-old grandchildren.

Keller was not just watching the young boys. She was right behind them, running after them and coming down the slides right behind them.

Keller said she brings the boys either to Optimist or Pepin after school to "burn off some energy." When asked which one is her favorite park, one of the boys yelled out, "This one!"

Keller had one suggestion, an addition she said would give an edge to any park that would implement it.

"One thing that would be super nice would be to have a cement wading pool, and I know that's probably not going to happen. My grandkids are water bugs," she said.

Keller said she would settle for anything that would squirt out water.

"Anytime they can mix water with a playground, that'd be awesome," she said. "If they'd have some sort of water feature, whether it'd be a water fountain, anything."

Both women said they also attend various events when they are hosted at the parks. Johnson said she went with her children to the Aug. 9 Bear Paw Credit Union for Kids Day, and some Tuesdays she and her husband listen to Kicks@6 at Pepin.

Other parks have unique uses, such as Skate Park, where boys and girls do just that - skate.

Legion Field hosted The Babe Ruth City tournament June 12.

With winter just a snowflake away, Inman and company have begun winterizing the parks. Winterizing includes pouring antifreeze in the bathrooms, blowing water out of the sprinklers so they don't burst and removing meters so they don't freeze.

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

"With the weather changing now, we'll be in there blowing out sprinklers. So we just ask the public that when we put signs saying we've sprayed the park please keep off, please keep off. It's a safety feature. ... We want them to stay off until it's safe for them to get back on," she said.

Once spring arrives, Inman said, Havre can expect some fundraising events to begin work on the next park upgrades. The city pays for park upgrades through fundraisers and grants.

"We want to upgrade Carpenter Park - re-do the basketball courts, resurface them, put up new fencing and upgrade some of that playground equipment," she said. "It needs to be done desperately bad."

At Patterson Park, the plan is to upgrade the playground, the parking lot and the bathrooms.

 

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