Iowa City Riverfront Crossings Park project receives federal grant for an inclusive nature play area

Construction on the Riverfront Crossings Park is shown July 24, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

The Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department announced this week it had been awarded a $157,300 grant from the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) for the Riverfront Crossings Park project now under construction. The grant, which will help pay for the park’s nature play area, came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the NPS.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund grant focuses on nature play opportunities, and our design was a really nice fit for that grant,” said Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director Juli Seydell Johnson. “Because the park will feature opportunities to enjoy nature in the middle of Iowa City.”

The nature play area will combine elements of a traditional playground — for example, slides and swings — with landscape-based elements, such as a small sculpted hill.

“We’re calling it a ‘tumble hill,’” Seydell Johnson said “It’s a green hill that kids will be able to roll down, with a tunnel underneath they can play in.”

The play area will also have a section where kids can play in Ralston Creek, as well as more adrenalin-tapping features like a zip line and kid’s obstacle course. “It’s like a mini-American Ninja Warrior course, for kids to run down, explore, jump and climb,” Seydell Johnson explained.

The nature play area will also conform to the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Even with the tumble hill, people using mobility devices should be able to reach the top,” Seydell Johnson said. “We don’t put in parks that aren’t ADA compliant anymore.”

Even the zip line feature will be accessible, according to Seydell Johnson. “We’re putting in a dual zip line. It will have one side for children without disabilities, and the other side will have a special seat and accommodations for kids who need assistance to use the zip line.”

“We’ve tried to make the whole play area as inclusive as possible,” Seydell Johnson said.

In August, the city received a $50,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and the Walt Disney Company for the nature play area.

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