City of St. George begins renovations at Sunset Park

Sunset Park, pre-renovation, St. George, Utah, June 2012 | Photo by Mike Barfuss for St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Extensive renovations began at Sunset Park on June 20, with the goal of providing a safe, clean place for families to gather and play.

Located at 540 North 1590 West in St. George, Sunset Park is used mainly by the residents of surrounding communities and the students of Sunset Elementary School. In fact, the park sits within the school boundaries and is owned by the Washington County School District. It is used exclusively by students during school hours – 8:25 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., Monday to Friday – but is open to the general public all other times.

Since its establishment, the park consisted only of a grass sports field and baseball backstop. The forthcoming improvements include a pavilion, a lighted walking path, restrooms and several landscaped areas complete with shrubs and trees. An entirely new field will be also be constructed, with the backstop moved to the southeast corner to maximize the area’s usage for other sports. Many of these amenities were added to meet the city’s standards for community parks.

“By adding these features, the park will better serve the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Zac Koceja of the Park Planning Division, who is serving as project manager. “Comfort, recreational opportunities and safety (will be improved.)”

The renovations at Sunset Park are one of seven major trail and park projects contained in the city of St. George’s 2012-2013 recommended budget, which was approved at the June 21 City Council meeting. Koceja said that the park had long been serving the community with limited facilities and that the city began actively planning to improve it approximately three years ago.

Sandie Erickson, a 5th grade teacher at Sunset Elementary, uses the park for a variety of educational activities. Aside from the usual playground games, she and her fellow teachers have organized events such as a student-versus-teacher kickball tournament and a fun, friendly reenactment of the Revolutionary War, which allows youngsters to learn about the nation’s history while being physically active. She also encourages her students to participate in the school’s “100 Mile Club” by walking laps around the park during breaks, with the goal of covering 100 miles by the end of the year.

“In the past, (they) have had to walk over weeds, gopher holes and uneven ground,” she said. “Now, the students are looking forward to a safer (walking area), and the teachers are looking forward to having trees and a maintained lawn. We will be able to use the area as an outdoor classroom to learn about nature and the variety of land forms that surround us.”

“I think what (the city is) doing here is wonderful,” said Patti Venegas, a mother of two who lives a few blocks from the park. “I am especially excited about the path. It will be a great place for my son to learn how to ride his bike.”

Renovations began on June 20; the park is expected to be fully operational by September 17. And despite its nearness to Sunset Elementary, Koceja said that its features are for all ages, not just children.

“Sunset Park provides an aesthetically pleasing location for gatherings and passive recreation for the citizens of St. George,” he said. “Parks in general benefit the community a great deal.”

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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