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New playground scheduled for construction at Billings Castlerock Park in 2021

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Posted at 8:18 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 00:16:41-05

BILLINGS — Castlerock Park in Billings will have a new playground constructed on the west side of the park in 2021, according to a master plan that was shown to the Billings City Council Monday night.

The playground is one of many improvements identified in the Castlerock Park master plan that has a total build cost estimated at $11.9 million. Across the 25-acre park in Billings Heights, new amenities proposed include an event pavilion, amphitheater, basketball court, community center, pickleball courts, picnic seating, restrooms and others.

The playground portion of the master plan is the only project that has funding currently identified and is scheduled to start construction in 2021, said Mike Whitaker, director of Billings Parks and Recreation.

The 16,000-square-foot playground portion of the Castlerock Park development is estimated to cost $492,000. A $400,000 portion of the project will be funded with money from Park District 1, according to the city's five-year capital improvement plan. The remaining cost is expected to be paid for with a mix of private and public partnerships, according to the master plan.

Whitaker described the Castlerock playground as a "destination playground" similar in scope to the one currently found in Pioneer Park near Billings Senior High School. It will also be accessible to those with disabilities and have a paved path from the parking lot to play structure.

Currently the park has amenities of an open grass field, tennis courts, splash pad and natural pond.

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A view of new amenities called for in the Castlerock Park master plan.

The community outreach for the master plan began in May 2020. Public meetings were held virtually to gain community input along with a survey that had 390 participants, according to the City Council agenda.

Dayton Rush, with Cushing Terrell architects, was a part of the master plan creation and said the new park amenities proposed all came from community outreach.

“The important thing to keep in mind is that every single element that is in this master plan was really highly ranked with all of that public feedback. Nothing here is invented or made up. This is all directly from the public and what they asked for and prioritized," Rush said.

Rush also worked with community stakeholders, neighbors, neighboring businesses, the Heights Task Force and past park permit holders to gain insight.

A playground at Castlerock Park will be a welcome addition to the largest park in Billings Heights. The park last had a playground in 2003, but it was made from wood and unable to be maintained, so it was removed for safety reasons, according to the Billings 2021-25 capital improvement plan.

New restrooms and paved parking lot near Wicks Lane would allow for easy access to the park. Whitaker said the capital improvement plan will be amended at a future meeting to include $1 million total spent over this year and next to pay for the restrooms and parking lot.

Once complete, the parking lot would have 140 spaces at 60,000 square feet and carry a cost of about $207,000 to build. The restrooms would cost about $412,000 and take up 1,800 square feet with men's, women's and family restrooms that would also serve the spray park in the summer.

The seemingly steep cost for the bathrooms was estimated due to the "tricky soils" found in the park area, Rush said. A few years back, newly constructed tennis courts at Castlerock Park crumbled because of poor drainage, Rush said.

"When the tennis court was replaced, it was an asphalt tennis court that did not last very long. I think it was only usable for a few years from what I’ve heard people talk about before it crumbled in place. So really, we wanted a plan making sure we budgeted enough to build these so at least they will last on the tricky soil and drain," Rush said.

Exciting developments are in the plan for the east side of the park, which will focus more on community with an events space, pavilion and amphitheater.

"On the other side of the park, we’ve really added that community events space, those pieces that are certainly missing from the Heights community right now. That is a built community center, but that is also an outdoor pavilion similar in size to maybe what’s at the zoo. It’s a large pavilion. It’s not really a small picnic shelter, although we have some of those over there as well," Rush said.

Both the presenters and the Council members said the entire master plan would need private and public partnerships to completely build out. Rush mentioned how the local pickleball club is looking for a dedicated space and are chomping at the bit to start fundraising efforts.

“I really think (the public's) strength and (the city's) strength go hand in hand if we work collaboratively. That’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s going to take some finesse on each of these projects, I think for sure. But it really is good news the kind of support we’re getting," Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski said.

The master plan still needs the City Council's approval. Kukulski said it will be brought forward at a meeting in the next 30 to 60 days for a Council vote.

To view the master plan in its entirety and watch a video showcasing the concept, visit the city parks and recreation web site by clicking here.