Libby City Council approves new playground equipment at Fireman's Park
The sign at Fireman's Park in Libby. (Derrick Perkins/The Western News)
(Derrick Perkins/The Western News)
City Councilor Zach McNew, left, has led the effort to upgrade the playground equipment at Fireman's Park. (Derrick Perkins/The Western News)
The playground equipment at Fireman's Park in Libby. (Derrick Perkins/The Western News)
The wooden playground equipment at Fireman's Park in Libby. (Derrick Perkins/The Western News)
Daily Inter Lake | March 25, 2022 7:00 AM
The aging playground equipment at Fireman’s Park is getting an upgrade.
Libby City Council unanimously backed putting $75,000 toward the estimated $93,750 project on March 21. City Councilor Zach McNew, who spearheaded the effort, said supporters had lined up $15,000 in donations with another $10,000 possibly on the way.
“We believe this will enhance the community we live in,” McNew said.
The public funding will come from the city’s community development fund. Members of the municipality’s parks committee hashed out the proposal and its associated financial logistics at a recent meeting, McNew told his colleagues.
Residents in attendance were largely supportive of the measure. Bruce Weatherby, president of the Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley, dryly told city councilors it was a rare occurrence for him to appear before them with a smile.
“I’m so happy — I’m usually here complaining,” he said, drawing laughter. “We can actually do something nice.”
Weatherby said the Rotary Club was behind the $15,000 donation to the project. A co-founder of Sherpa Adventures, he said the company would be willing to match a donation from another business up to $5,000 toward the undertaking.
Mayor Peggy Williams praised Weatherby for his — and the Rotary Club’s — generosity.
“I want to thank Rotary because [the organization has] been very supportive of Libby and our parks,” she said.
Also on hand were Karen Stickney and Jenny Wood. The pair told city councilors they had been soliciting funds for a memorial swing at the park. To date, they raised more than $4,000 for the effort. The pair asked that the swing be incorporated into the equipment overhaul.
The two-seater swings were originally conceptualized by Caral Hilliard as a memorial for her son, Chance, who died in 2018. Hilliard, though, died in December.
“It would actually be for her and Chance,” said Stickney of the proposed swing. “We wanted to try and include this piece of equipment somewhere in the playground area. It can be designated anywhere the council or parks people see fit.”
Williams turned the request over to McNew and the rest of the council’s parks committee for review.
The last bit of public comment came from resident Jennifer Nelson. While supportive of the project, she urged city councilors to reconsider the proposed ground level padding around the equipment. Under the city’s proposal, a 75-foot by 75-foot space would be covered in recycled rubber mulch material.
Nelson worried that used tires would be repurposed for the rubber mulch.
“It is a third of the cost of the project and currently rubber mulch is under scrutiny throughout many countries because it is made from recycled tires — auto tires — and once you put it down it is very difficult to remove.”
Additionally, tires included many toxic materials, she said. Nelson encouraged city councilors to look into wood chips as an alternative.
“We live among many trees and we’ve used wood chips before,” she said.
In response, McNew pledged to check into other sources for padding around the equipment. City Councilor Kristin Smith, who made the original motion to approve the funding, amended it to include a search for alternative padding material. She described the project as a fruitful use of the municipality’s community development dollars.
“I think this falls right in line with our fund parameters, the guidelines we established for ourselves to spend community development funds,” she said. “It’s leveraged with the other monies that are going to go toward it and it’s a very specific community development project.”
McNew said the refurbishment would turn the park into a showcase of sorts for Libby. The spot, he pointed out, is typically busy throughout the summer.
“We’re well aware that in summer time we have a farmer’s market down there,” he said. “It’s a very busy area.”