Rocket Park relaunched today

City worker Ken Vogan paints the rocket’s fins Monday in preparation for the re-dedication of Rocket Park.



Rocket Park will open to fans of all ages after a re-dedication celebration today.

Refreshments will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony will begin at 6 in the park, which is at Orchard Avenue and 26th Street. The ceremony will include comments from city leaders, music performed by Orchard Avenue Elementary School students, the dedication of an art piece, and a ribbon cutting.

Events also will include the presentation of a historic preservation award for the city’s re-use of a rocket-shaped piece of playground equipment and a piece of equipment shaped like the planet Saturn. Both were installed in the park nearly a half-century ago and now stand as artwork at the northeast corner of the park.

City Parks and Recreation Director Rob Schoeber said neighbors made it clear the 47-year-old rocket should stick around, even if it’s not part of the newly equipped playground.

“We had several neighborhood meetings and we heard very loud and clear the rocket was the signature piece of that park,” Schoeber said. “We knew in our minds it wasn’t a safe piece of playground structure any longer. That’s where the art idea came into play.”

The park opened as Melrose Park in 1956 with restrooms and 2 1/2 acres of trees and turf, according to Parks Superintendent Mike Vendegna. It wasn’t until 1963 that the park added playground equipment, including the rocket, which led to the nickname Rocket Park. Grand Junction City Council members voted last October to make the park’s nickname official and rename Melrose as Rocket Park.

The park hadn’t changed much except for having its rest room fixtures updated in 1983 and having a shelter installed in 1989 on the southwest side of the park.

The decision to revamp Rocket Park is connected to the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department’s informal adoption last year of National Playground Safety Institute playground standards, Schoeber said. Rocket Park didn’t meet those standards because of aging equipment that in some instances was too high for children to easily avoid injury if they fell.

The redevelopment project began last summer with the construction of a new shelter and restroom building, Schoeber said. A concrete trail weaving around the playground and through the park was built. New playground equipment and a rubbery playground surface designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs were installed.

Vendegna said Rocket Park will be the first “boundless park” in Grand Junction, meaning most of the equipment is accessible to people with disabilities. Mesa Developmental Services, Live Well Mesa County, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Desert Vista Garden Club helped the city pay the $415,000 bill for the park’s new look, Schoeber said. About 56 percent of the price tag will be paid by sources other than the city, Schoeber said.


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