In a bid to help make parks in the City of Payette more “age-friendly,” Southwest District Health (SWDH) is offering to help the city land a grant of up to $4,500.
Raquel Nunez stated the offer during her June 17 presentation on “age-friendly” parks to the City Council.
Nunez shared results from a two-part assessment she and the health district recently completed for Kiwanis Park and Central Park.
“The purpose of this was to assess the parks of Payette and then determine what we can improve or change to make them more age-friendly,” Nunez said.
“As you know, parks are a big asset to a community in promoting an active lifestyle — an area where people can go to spend time with their families, or playgrounds where kids can be active,” Nunez told councilors. The assessment focused on Kiwanis and Central because those two are within walking distance for the largest number of residents.
For each park’s assessment, Nunez herself identified what she considered to be the park’s strengths and weaknesses. Each assessment also included a community feedback component.
“We did some surveys, sent it out to a bunch of organizations here,” Nunez said. Respondents’ average age “was a little bit over fifty,” Nunez said, but ages ranged from “sixteen to eighty-one-plus years old, so we had a good amount of perspective there.”
She added, “The majority of the people that took the survey lived either less than a mile, up to five miles from one of these parks and were able to drive or walk to this location. … The majority of them visited the park at least weekly or monthly, so we know that they are being used, and pretty regularly.”
In her personal assessment of Kiwanis Park, Nunez found it offered numerous benefits, including playgrounds, a scenic slough, large grassy areas, “tons of shade,” a skate park (which provides for a “different age set”), a “really neat” band shell, close proximity to the public pool, covered picnic areas, painted crosswalks in the adjoining street to “easily allow for pedestrians to cross over” to the park, and a bike or walking path that cuts through the park.
She listed several improvements that could be worth pursuing at Kiwanis Park. One would be to connect a walking path to the bridges over the slough.
“There is no paved walking path to or from [the bridges], which could really limit” the ability of seniors and others to safely access the bridges, she explained. Worse, the ground leading to the bridges is “uneven,” she said, “so it could be a tripping hazard for an older senior or even a child” or for someone who is “visually impaired.”
Although the park’s playground equipment is listed as a benefit, Nunez argues also that it should be updated. The metal slides, she said, get too hot in the sun.
Nunez further suggests adding bike racks and a water fountain at Kiwanis Park.
The park also lacks permanent restrooms, a shortcoming noted both by Nunez and by residents in their feedback.
In addition to the mention of permanent restrooms, residents’ assessment of the park’s pluses and minuses in certain other respects agreed with Nunez’s, but not in all areas.
Members of the public indicated their appreciation for the park’s clean condition and ample shade, and they like having benches, although they also find the benches to be a bit worn and perhaps ready for replacement. The public also would like a connected walking path accessing the park’s bridges, and finally, an off-leash area for dogs. (The City Council earlier this year approved a proposal to site a fenced dog park in the southwest section of Kiwanis Park, but the city has not proceeded with the installation and the council hasn’t discussed the matter again. Nunez’s presentation did not mention the council’s earlier deliberations on the dog park issue.)
Other improvements the public independently suggested for Kiwanis Park: a splash pad, and conversion of the old Kiwanis Building to use as a kind of community center, a place “evening classes” could be offered, Nunez related.
In Nunez’s own assessment for Central Park, the health district employee gave the location high marks for having a playground and a basketball court. She also praised the landscaping and called further attention to what she said was many people’s “favorite part of the park, the rose garden.” A major plus is the park’s proximity to the Payette Public Library.
Not unlike Kiwanis Park, though, Central Park would benefit by adding a walkway. Where it’s needed at Central Park, according to Nunez, is from the sidewalk to the basketball court, which would provide safer access for anyone who can’t readily traverse the unpaved ground. Also, part of the existing sidewalk pavement is broken and needs repair.
Also like Kiwanis Park, Central Park has some metal playground equipment that becomes quite hot.
Among improvements the public would like to see at Central Park: a splash pad, and restrooms with changing tables.
Nunez says 79 percent of respondents say they would support making Central Park entirely smoke-free. Toward this end, she said, the health district can provide “no smoking or vaping” signs and also offers technical assistance with updating the city’s tobacco policy. With the right ordinance in place, she said, law enforcement officers would have “probable cause” to “see what’s in that vape,” for example, if they catch someone smoking at the park.
Finally, Nunez let councilors know that Southwest District Health was prepared to help the city apply for a grant of up to $4,500 from the Department of Health and Welfare to make approved changes at the parks. She said the money couldn’t be used for any permanent construction, but it could nonetheless be used for many useful items. Examples, she said, include “non-permanent shade structure, picnic tables, benches, playground equipment, (painting of) crosswalks,” and “equipment for summer camps.”
At the conclusion of Nunez’s presentation, some members of Payette government voiced appreciation for the district’s work and indicated they were interested in the grant offer. Nunez told them the city had until the end of August to work on the grant application.