BILLINGS — It's not your parents' Castle Rock Park. Groundbreaking on a new playground Thursday is just phase one of a major facelift planned for the Heights hangout—and "heights" is a good word—for the tallest play structure in Billings.
The new and improved playground at Castle Rock Park, located at West Wicks Lane and Nutter Boulevard in Billings, opened to the public on Thursday. It features an all-new wooden playground that reaches 33 feet in the sky and a 90-foot zipline, on top of other new additions.
“It’s definitely the tallest, and it’s also the first all-wood one that we have. It’s a special kind of wood that takes a long time to rot. It just kind of naturally ages and it looks better every year,” said Mike Pigg, the director of the Billings Parks and Recreation Department, on Thursday. “One of my favorites is the sand pit right here, all of the little guys love that and they’re just playing like crazy in there. Then you’ve got the smaller kids' play house here, and then a whole city of swings over here with multiple different kinds. From a basket swing to a mommy and me. And then of course the zipline."
According to Pigg, the project was planned by the Heights Task Force, Billings Parks and Recreation Department, and the community.
“It’s all about activating the parks and getting people to come to the parks and enjoy their time,” said Pigg.
The project has been in the works since 2020, but this is just the start of a much larger dream.
"This is just phase one of what we have going on. You’ll see here, coming soon, a brand new parking lot, brand new bathrooms. As we get rolling, there will be pickleball courts that come in. There’s a community center design for here," Pigg said. "So it’s very exciting, all of the things that are going to happen here at Castle Rock."
The list of possibilities goes on, including an amphitheater, but they’re all dependent on funding.
"There are additional phases that we’re going to come to. Adult exercise course through here, we have sand volleyball pits that will be going in. We have a pump track down the way and a community center," said Billings City Council member Roy Neese. "So all of this is planned, in fact, in the long-range there’s a plan for an indoor-outdoor pool. A lot of it is going to depend on funding."
Neese, who represents the Heights, and his fellow City Council members will decide Monday if they want to bring a $142 million bond to voters, $12 million of which would go toward Castle Rock Park.
"Monday night we’re going to have a meeting that’s going to be talking about how we can fund the parks for the future. And so there will be a lot of discussions Monday night when we talk about what we’re going to do for parks. Not just Castle Rock Park, but for parks throughout the whole city," Neese said. "There will be some major decisions made Monday night on that."
In the meantime, a new program from the city, Rec2U, is creating even more opportunities for play.
"That’s a free program that we take around town and provide recreational opportunities for all the kids," Pigg said. "You know, parents can bring their kids. They have games, they set up volleyball, we have snacks."
The program launched three weeks ago and visits different parks across Billings.
"Get on the City of Billings Parks and Rec web page and it will tell you where you can go to a Rec2U program," Pigg said.
So whether you’re enjoying the improvements or checking out Rec2U, there's plenty to do this summer in Billings.
"It’s really designed around the community to come here to Castle Rock Park, and really enjoy family life and community life together,” Neese said. "This is one of those projects where over time, everyone worked together to find solutions to really get this developed for the community."
To learn more about the history of Castle Rock Park and future plans, click here.
To learn more about Rec2U, click here.
“This is really one of those times where you start planning long term. I remember in 2020 when we started this process, a lot of people wanted it done right now," said Neese. "And government does move slow, so we just kept working the process, and today we have this great park here. It’s just amazing."