Popular park’s rocket to become art fixture
As far as anyone knows, Debi Arnspiger’s name isn’t scrawled into the 10-foot-tall rocket that has been the centerpiece of one of Grand Junction’s most loved parks for more than a half-century. She didn’t weld its parts together.
But when the 49-year-old woman gazes across the street at the red, yellow and blue hunk of metal, she can’t help but refer to it as “my rocket.”
That’s the sense of ownership you form when you climbed all over that contraption and hung upside down from it as a kid, as Arnspiger did. When you planted two trees on the east end of that park, as Arnspiger did. When your three children and four grandchildren play at that park now, as Arnspiger’s do.
City parks and recreation officials are in the midst of spending more than $400,000 to install new structures and playground equipment at Rocket Park at 26th Street and Orchard Avenue.
And while the rocket will remain a fixture at the 2.6-acre park, it soon will be grounded as a piece of playground equipment.
“It doesn’t meet safety standards whatsoever,” according to city Recreation Superintendent Traci Wieland.
Neighborhood residents say they’re pleased the rocket is being retained, but they’re sad that the days of scrambling up it and sliding down it are numbered.
“Man, when I heard they were going to turn it into a piece of art — so many people have had so much fun on it,” said Arnspiger, who rents a house on 26th Street, four doors down from where she grew up.
Wieland knows how attached the community is to the rocket but says it doesn’t meet city or U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards. She said the tall structure with the metal slide poses hazards of falls, entrapment and burns. She also noted the rocket is rusting, which could affect its stability.
City officials plan to move the rocket to a corner of the park and place it on a pedestal, so it essentially becomes artwork. They intend to keep an outer-space theme to the park.
The city is completing a new restroom, picnic shelter and concrete path at the park. It also is requesting proposals from contractors to install new playground equipment and surfacing.
“We really wanted to keep the rocket theme,” Wieland said. “We asked bidders to be as creative as they can be.”
She said the city has incorporated feedback from residents on how they want the revamped park to appear. Residents have asked for open rather than enclosed slides — so they can keep an eye on who’s on the slides and what they’re doing — and a separate play area for toddlers and preschool-age children.
The city hopes to begin work on the playground next month and finish by the end of the year.
Federal and state grants will pay for more than half of the park upgrades.
Arnspiger is excited about the improvements. And she’s glad the city is keeping the rocket.
“It’s very sad,” she said about losing an old plaything. “There’s a lot of years, a lot of tears there.”