Rocket Park renovation to take off

Melrose Park is also known as (Rocket Park.)

The little park at the corner of Orchard Avenue and 26th Street has formed the playful heart of this Grand Junction neighborhood for more than 50 years.

Residents are so passionate about it that despite the sign officially denoting this 2.6-acre square as Melrose Park, they’ve named and defended it as Rocket Park, courtesy of the 10-foot, red, yellow and blue metal contraption poised to blast off from the eastern half of the park.

The city hopes to reciprocate that passion in the coming months by investing $300,000 in new structures and equipment and other improvements. Among other things, the work could lead to the creation of the first “boundless” playground in Grand Junction, making it easier for children with disabilities to access the park.

“As big as this community is and to not have a park that’s ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act), you think it just kind of makes sense to have one,” said Traci Wieland, the city’s recreation superintendent who’s spearheading the project.

Wieland said renovation will start early next year with replacing the restrooms and the main shelter. The city also intends to put in a new playground because many of its features don’t meet modern safety standards.

Roughly 50 people turned out on a recent weeknight to learn more about the project and share their ideas.

Wieland said the city may look at other improvements including a walking path circling the park, a small parking lot or diagonal street parking, and a “tot lot.”

The centerpiece of the improvements, though, could involve building a new playground where children and adults with disabilities can play as easily as anyone else.

Wieland heard about Boundless Playgrounds, a Bloomfield, Conn., nonprofit that helps communities create and fund barrier-free playgrounds, and plans to seek information on it.

On those playgrounds, children can reach the highest play deck via ramps, play at elevated sand tables and on swings and bouncers with back support, said Dina Morris, spokeswoman for Boundless Playgrounds.

Rather than gravel, wood chips or sand, the playgrounds are on rubberized surfaces that wheelchairs can easily roll across.

Boundless playgrounds are not only intended to benefit children, but also adults with disabilities who want to play with their kids or grandkids, Morris said.

“It’s really about inclusion and everyone being in the middle of the fun together,” she said.

Boundless Playgrounds has 142 playgrounds in 26 states. The first of its type in Colorado opened this month in Windsor.

Wieland said the city received $108,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant program and plans to seek another grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to help pay for the improvements. Funding also could come through Boundless Playgrounds’ corporate sponsors.

The renovation should be done next year.


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