Iowa City City Council approves changes to local parks

Kiwanis, Hunter’s Run, Happy Hollow, and Hickory Hill Parks could see renovations by the end of the year


Matt Sindt

The Iowa City Council listens to speakers during a special formal meeting in the Emma J. Harvat Hall in City Hall on Jan. 10, 2023.

Sydney Libert, News Reporter

Renovations are coming soon to some of Iowa City’s public parks.

The Iowa City City Council voted 6-0 in approval of considering construction to Kiwanis, Hunter’s Run, Happy Hollow, and Hickory Hills Parks during Tuesday’s formal meeting. Mayor Bruce Teague was not in attendance.

All four parks were prioritized in the 2017 Park Master Plan because of the age and condition of their structures. The cost of construction is estimated to be $865,000 for the renovations. 

After conducting several neighborhood meetings, Juli Seydell Johnson, the director of parks and recreation in Iowa City, said the parks and recreation committee is using community feedback to make improvements to the parks.

Johnson said while all wooden timbers will be removed from Kiwanis Park’s playground, the plan is to keep the project as close to the natural area that neighbors love. Some changes to Kiwanis Park include:

  • Return of landscaping for better American Disabilities Act access
  • Reinstatement of boulders that are currently in storage to hold slopes back
  • Updated slides
  • Two hammock areas

Neighborhood residents were enthusiastic about adding hammocks to the park, which she compared to a swing.

Hunter’s Run Park, one of the oldest playgrounds in the Iowa City area, will also see improvements. The location and shelter area will not be touched.

Seydell Johnson said while some ash and scrub trees had to be removed in the past, the city will add large shade-producing trees to accommodate the past changes.

Amid multiple community conversations about how to address changes to Happy Hollow Park, the proposed project will replace the park’s playground and reskin the baseball field. The plan hopes to include a more ADA-accessible pathway into the field. Any playground installations will come later in the season.

Johnson said that while there had been discussion about more drainage for the field, studies from engineers found that such expectations are not possible due to the field’s basins. However, Johnson said that with the renovations, “by building it correctly with the angle, it should make the drainage better than it was.” 

Iowa City residents will have the opportunity to provide their input on Happy Hollow Park renovations. A survey where any residents can vote for the six proposed playground options will go live on the city’s website during the week.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the Parks and Recreation Committee’s project lists Hickory Hills Park as an alternate project in the future, “due to potential budgetary constraints and the volatile bidding environment.” 

With adequate funding and support, renovations to the north entrance area could include a new bathroom shelter that would be located more conveniently in the parking area for better access. 

The restroom building will also include a storage area for the Friends of Hickory Hill Park group, which has met with the committee to discuss potential improvements.

Seydell Johnson added that a cover works brand shelter, similar to those found at Frauenholtz-Miller and Cardigan Parks, will be included too. Unlike the park’s current octagon-shaped cover, the new shelter will be in a square or rectangular shape but will fit the same number of picnic tables underneath as before.

Mayor Pro-Tem Megan Alter also voiced support for the proposed changes.

Following the Council’s approval, a bid letting and award date will follow suit on March 15 and March 21, respectively. Developers are hoping to break ground in April and finish in October 2023.