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Billings Heights Castle Rock Park in the works to see major improvements

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 19:54:16-04

BILLINGS — Castle Rock Park in the Billings Heights is about to get a big facelift. Construction will begin in August on a new playground, and folks around the area say it’s much needed.

The park was bustling Wednesday as families came out to the city’s first day of triple-digit heat.

“I like it a lot cause there’s water and it’s nice to do during a hot day,” said 11-year-old Tinsley Wambeke.

Castle Rock Park is about to get a lot busier as the Billings City Council has approved a bid for a new playground and other improvements.

“Castle Rock Park has been in development for more than 40 years. There was previously a playground, it was removed,” said Billings City Council member Jennifer Owen, whose district includes the Heights.

Owen has been working on getting the park developed since she was the chair of the Heights Task Force before she was elected as a council member.

A new playground is only in phase one of the project.

“The remainder of the playground when fully built out will include some climbing boulders, some adult exercise equipment, and some pieces to really make that multi-generational,” Owen said.

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Additional accessibility equipment will also be installed. Owen says council members are also discussing the possibility of pavilions so park goers can gather.

“We have talked about a pump track and a skate park kind of in that same area down by the pond, so teenagers feel like there’s a place for them to enjoy the park as well,” said Owen.

The tragic death of 15-year-old Khoen Parker last January in the parking lot across the park also influenced the master plan.

Parker was shot and killed in the parking lot next to the park while with a group of other kids. Police have made no arrests in the case, and residents in the area have noted the darkness in the lot opens the door for more crime.

“There were immediately conversations between School District 2 and the city of Billings. I believe NorthWestern Energy came to the table right away to get some lights in the park and really try to address that,” Owen said.

Owen and others are also hoping a community center will be built.

“One of the reasons that community center is really important is it does put lights into the park. It activates it into the evening,” Owen said.

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Lots of changes are coming soon and parents like Sarah Willis can’t wait.

“Sometimes the Heights gets a bad rap like as far as safety. I think it will just help brighten up the neighborhood at least,” Willis said.

Owen hopes the nearly $600,000 park will be completed by the beginning of October.

“I can’t wait until that is here,” said Wambeke.

Owen invites community sponsors to join City Council in funding the building of the park. If you wish to donate to the building of the park, visit Home - Partners for Parks | Billings, Montana (pfpbillings.org).