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An all-inclusive Lowe Park playground offers fun for everyone
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · January 18th, 2018

Several Marion Parks & Recreation capital improvement conceptual designs were on display during a public open house at the Lowe Park & Environment Center on January 9 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Those in attendance were able to study the Phase 2 design plans, which include an all-inclusive neighborhood playground, park pavilion, sun-shaded areas and restroom facility near the south-side entrance at Irish Drive, before gathering for a general design presentation.

During the presentation, Marion Parks & Recreation Director Mike Carolan showed slides of two submitted circular handicap-friendly playground renditions that are currently up for consideration. According to Carolan, the completed all-inclusive area will accommodate those with disabilities; from autism to parents who are wheelchair bound. It will provide the

elements necessary to include them in action and play, he said.

According to Carolan, once they choose the playground that best suits their needs, it should go out for bids by the end of February or early March. And the playground's color pallet has not yet been decided on, but should be in keeping with its surrounding natural prairie landscape and should offer transitional ones benefiting those with special needs.

Residents, civic leaders, and city officials who were in attendance later engaged in conversation with Carolan during a question-and-answer session. One City Council Member asked Carolan whether the new park area will be connected to the central hard surface walking trail. He said no integrated trail is scheduled at this point, but the overall master plan does call for additional trails throughout the park.

Recently accredited Lowe Park Master Gardener Donna McCabe and her husband Jim McCabe, who help care for the park's flower beds, suggested adding a small butterfly amphitheater and water play area near the playground. Carolan said the natural woodlot setting across the road might make a good location for such projects.

An aesthetically pleasing gateway near the park's south entrance at Irish Drive, with native grass and between six and eight trees is also in the mix. He said tree planting in the park is 100 percent done through grant opportunities with tree partners such as Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy companies. For example, they have planted upwards of 120 to 150 trees, and a few young ones near the new playground addition will need to be transplanted.

Besides tree planting, they are also planning to repurpose stones near the infrastructure put in last year with the roadway into the park, Carolan said. And, when asked about how many handicap parking spaces will be designated near the new playground, Carolan said they are planning to have three, but will add more if the need arises. They may also later add more parking spaces across from the playground, budget permitting.
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