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Our View: Belle's Play Garden a welcome addition to Council Bluffs

Our View: Belle's Play Garden a welcome addition to Council Bluffs

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An illustrated design of Belle’s Play Garden, a roughly $600,000 project being donated to River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs.

Youngsters throughout the metro will soon have another option for getting outside and having some fun, thanks to a pair of local families.

Belle’s Play Garden will sit on a 2,000-square-foot area at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park on the Council Bluffs riverfront, with “interactive play elements in vibrant colors and patterns that represent the Missouri River and unique topography of the bluffs,” according to the Iowa West Foundation, a funder of the project.

“We think we can accomplish something special,” Heather Tomasek told the Council Bluffs City Council during its Monday study session.

We agree.

Tomasek and husband Rick Knudtson have teamed with Dusty and Marlina Davidson to spearhead the project, contributing $200,000 toward the project. The Back to the River organization will contribute $100,000, with Iowa West matching those funds with $300,000.

It’s a win for Council Bluffs.

This project is part of the Go Play initiative co-founded by the Knudtson-Tomasek and Davidson families, which aims to increase outdoor play opportunities in the metro area.

The Davidsons were born and raised in Council Bluffs, and Heather Tomasek formerly worked for the City of Council Bluffs’ Parks Department managing the landscape architecture for Phase II of River’s Edge Park.

The park is “near and dear to me,” Tomasek told the council Monday.

Tomasek said she researched playgrounds across the country, including taking a trip to Cincinnati, while working with a company to design the area, with an eye toward making sure the play garden matches the existing aesthetics of River’s Edge Park.

“We believe the addition of a new play space is very appropriate,” she said of the addition to the park, which will be near the pavilion.

For the play pieces, “we wanted something iconic and memorable,” Tomasek said. The area will have cattails and a 15-foot-tall pelican with a slide, among the many features of the design.

“This Go Play initiative was founded with the hopes of returning the idea of play back to the park and the neighborhoods in the former Playland Park area,” Tomasek said in a release. “Both our families have young daughters that love to spend time outside at various parks around the metro so this is named in honor of them. We believe it will reintroduce a new play space that enhances one’s sense of discovery and adds to the growing momentum at the riverfront.”

The playground is named after the families’ daughters: Ella “El Belle” Knudtson and Annabelle Davidson.

Tomasek told the Nonpareil the next step in moving the project forward is getting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is required because of its proximity to the Missouri River levee. That could take nine to 12 months.

The project, which does not require council approval because no city funds are being used, is not to exceed $600,000, Tomasek said.

The City Council was unanimous in showing its appreciation of the project.

“This is an absolute ton of work and so thoughtful,” Councilman Chad Hannan said.

“A really cool project,” Councilman Roger Sandau added.

A cool project indeed. Kudos to the Knudtson-Tomasek and Davidson families, Back to the River and Iowa West for coming together to give a gift to Council Bluffs that will be enjoyed for years to come.

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