GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Park & Recreation Department was recently awarded $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to restore Morony Park, located at 111 12th Street North, and location of the now-closed Morony Natatorium.
The restoration plans include removing the Natatorium building and installing a new play structure, pavilion, sidewalks, and an updated basketball court.
The Natatorium, the city's aquatic center, was closed in 2018 because it was falling into disrepair. Demolition is scheduled to start in June 2023.
"Obviously, we've got to do some assessments on any asbestos and lead paint and make sure that's taken care of properly," said Steve Herrig, director of Great Falls Park & Recreation.
Lanni Klasner, spokesperson for the City, said in a news release that removing the Natatorium will eliminate a safety hazard and blight while restoring the open park space and providing much-needed amenities to the neighborhood.
The nearest park with amenities such as a basketball court and a play structure is 1 ½ miles away. The new sidewalks will provide handicapped accessibility to the amenities and offer easy access for families with strollers.
Any grant money left over after the demolition will be used to work on the property.
"(We'll) see if we've got enough to purchase the playground and then our staff is capable of putting the playground in. We would do that as quickly as possible and then we would probably have to go out to bid on a shelter and some sidewalks as well. Then we'll work with Public Works to dress up the basketball court," Herrig explained.
“The grant request for the Park and Recreation Department is consistent with the City’s adopted Annual Action Plan, which contains the goal of slum and blight removal. Upgrading the park also provides an important outdoor recreation facility for nearby low to moderate-income residents,” said Tonya Shumaker, the city's CDBG administrator.
Additionally, the Morony Park improvements will meet the goals outlined in the Park & Recreation Master Plan. The City Commission adopted the master plan in November 2016 after an extensive public process, including surveys, town meetings, focus groups, and meetings with City officials. Walking trails and neighborhood parks ranked as the two highest priorities for citizens.
A new aquatic center is being built at Lions park in Great Falls and should be complete before the end of 2023.
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