The City of Marion is one of 49 Kansas communities to receive a community improvement grant through the Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program.
Marion has received a grant totaling $221,940, and the city will contribute $24,660 in matching funds, or around 10 percent.
Funding for the CDBG program comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Department of Commerce.
Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the grant money will be used for multiple improvements to East Park.
Improvements will include creating handicap accessible parking along Thorp Street and an adjoining ramp to the main sidewalk, resurfacing the tennis and basketball courts, and adding new playground equipment and an outdoor racquetball dual court.
?This is something that we probably wouldn?t have had high on our internal list for a project because we have a number of other things, but this grant specifically addresses this, and so with a 90/10 project, it made sense,? Heitschmidt said. ?We can do this project for $25,000. It?s a win-win.?
East Park was created in 1957, and playground equipment and a shelter house were added two years later.
The tennis courts were installed in the 1970s and a rubberized surface added in the 1980s. The basketball courts were installed in the 1980s, and in 2002, made into a skateboard park. As part of the current project, the space will be converted back to basketball, Heitschmidt said.
The current playground equipment was refurbished and painted in 2013-14, in addition to updates to the shelter house and picnic tables.
Heitschmidt said that receiving this grant does not disqualify Marion from receiving other CDBG funding, as would typically be the case with cities unable to apply for more than one CDBG grant in one year.
Heitschmidt said he was surprised to learn Marion was awarded the community improvement grant. He credited EBH Engineering, which was approved as engineers for the project, for helping with the process.
?With their assistance, we were able to put this grant together,? he said. ?It was short notice. Usually you have more time to put grants together, so with their expertise, I think that maybe gave us a leg up on the grant process. Not all communities would?ve had the time to put everything together to do this.?
While Heitschmidt said some of the park improvements will begin this fall, the majority of the work will be done in 2016. The city will have around 18 months to complete the project, he said.
Heitschmidt said the East Park improvements will only add to the area.
?It expands on what?s going on in that part of town already with the Sports and Aquatic Center right there,? he said. ?It?s right by the grade school as well, so we see that as a great addition to that (area).?
With the city taking the reins of the rec program in January 2016, Heitschmidt foresees use of the new and improved East Park for rec programs, including tennis, outdoor basketball and racquetball.
He would like to see an increase in general usage as a result of the improvements as well.
?It makes it kind of hard to go play tennis when you don?t have a good surface to play on anymore, and I think we had a few issues with the basketball court surface, too,? Heitschmidt said. ?General use will be what it?s for, too, besides any specific programs we develop. We think it?s (a) great opportunity.?
The planned improvements to East Park come on the heels of the addition of new restrooms and a stage in Central Park.
?This grant is a nice complement to our park system, with what we have been doing,? Heitschmidt said. ?When families look to move into a community, recreation is usually in the top three, or activities for things to do. The more we can do in our Central Park or East Park to provide those opportunities only enhances our opportunities for attracting families here to Marion County.?