JOPLIN, Mo. —
She had come to Parr Hill Park with her mother and grandmother for a walk, but 2-year-old Alaina Adame probably would have stayed at the playground all into the night if she had been allowed.
“She loves it,” said her grandmother, Donna Craig, of Carthage. “She doesn’t want to leave.”
Now the park is poised to get a little more love from the Joplin community. It is one of 550 parks nationwide that have been selected for the “Heart Your Park” program, which is sponsored by Macy’s department stores in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.
Customers at the Macy’s store at Northpark Mall in Joplin can contribute by donating $1 or more at the register this month, with 100 percent of the donations benefiting Parr Hill Park. Macy’s will match the total customer donation across all stores, dollar for dollar, up to $250,000.
“Macy’s recognizes the fact that our community parks contribute to our quality of life,” said Kewan Smith, cause marketing manager for the department store’s southeast and south-central regions.
Smith said Parr Hill was chosen for the program by employees of the Joplin Macy’s store, who wanted to help one of the city parks that had been affected by the May 2011 tornado.
Tornado damage to the park had been “substantial,” said Chris Cotten, director of the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department. And although Parr Hill was the last public park to reopen after the disaster, it did so with the help of a number of donors who wanted to see it rebuilt, he said.
Miracle Recreation Equipment of Monett helped repair the damaged playground. An off-leash dog park was built with donations from Mars Pet Care. Donations from Leggett & Platt Inc. funded a shelter in the southeast corner of the park and the popular splash pad.
The Masonic Grand Lodge of Missouri paid for a picnic shelter and playground at the park’s north end. Peace Lutheran Church bought a playground in the south-central portion of the park.
And in its first donation to the park, Macy’s paid for a “significant portion” of the park’s water garden, Cotten said.
Cotten said that in addition to the dog park and splash pad, the park now has three playgrounds, three picnic shelters and more than 200 trees, more than twice the number of trees it had at the time of the tornado.
“It’s very important to us to revitalize that park and make it a staple in the community,” he said. “Where before it was what we would consider to be underutilized, now we consider it to be a very busy park.”
Those efforts appear to have paid off. Although the department doesn’t track how many visitors the park receives on a regular basis, staff members track its popularity using a different method.
“Before the tornado, we had a lot of vandalism out there, and when people are free to do vandalism, it’s because the park is not heavily used,” Cotten said. “As you develop a park so it’s more user-friendly, those incidents decline, and they have declined (at Parr Hill).”
Cotten said parks and recreation staff members are preparing to install some outdoor fitness equipment at the park. They also are studying future improvement projects that could use the “Heart Your Park” donations and revenue from a city parks and stormwater sales tax that voters renewed in August 2011, but nothing specific has been identified.
“While we don’t have a definite mission at this point, we know there’s still usable space there, and we want to develop the park for all citizens to use,” he said.
Craig said she used to live near Parr Hill Park, having moved to Carthage after the tornado. She said she frequently took her daughter, Mikaila Adame, to the park to play when she was younger; now it’s Mikaila’s daughter, Alaina, who is enjoying the newly rebuilt park.
Craig said the park now somehow seems larger than it used to be, and she looks forward to seeing it when the newly planted trees grow and bloom. She said she likes the walking trail and playgrounds, while a disc golf course or horseshoe pit could fit nicely into the park as well.
“It’s really nice, and I think it will get used a lot,” she said of the park.
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME that Macy’s has organized the “Heart Your Park” program, said Kewan Smith, cause marketing manager. A full list of the parks benefiting from the program is available at macys.com/parks