Lewis County Park renovations planned

WESTON – Come Memorial Day, the Lewis County Park swimming pool will be entering its third season after a complete renovation, but improvements to the park are continuing, officials said.

The Lewis County Commission is planning to utilize a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, in conjunction with the same amount in local matching funds for a total of $120,000 to bring the entire Lewis County Park into federal compliance for its patrons.

Commissioner Pat Boyle announced at a Lewis County Chamber of Commerce lunch Thursday the purpose of the renovations is to make the park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When asked for further details about the project, Boyle deferred to County Administrator Cindy Whetsell, who he said had the project details.

“We’re really excited about it,” Whetsell told The Inter-Mountain Friday. “This is a great addition to the Lewis County Park and I think all the citizens will benefit. Not just the kids, but everyone.”

The renovations include new playsets, concrete ramps with a corrected slope to the pool office, walking bridge, picnic shelters, handicap accessible parking area and picnic benches, and modifications to the restrooms, shower areas and drinking fountains.

“With the shelters and things, it’s amazing the number of folks that we have that use even walkers or canes that have difficulty accessing some of the shelters and the restrooms at the park,” Whetsell said. “So this will be a nice, continuous paved or concrete walkway surface to allow that mobility.”

The last major renovation to the play area of the Lewis County Park took place in 1999 when Nickelodeon launched it’s Big Help-a-thon, allowing area youth to participate in renovating 10 parks across the nation. The park was chosen by a telephone contest launched by the network.

Almost 15 years later, the park will begin to see new changes. Equipment for the restrooms already have been ordered and some preliminary work has been done onsite.

Although the actual playground equipment has not been officially chosen, some of the options include play areas that generate sounds and can accommodate handicapped children and may also interest autistic children. From the swings to the sandbox, officials are looking at every option available to upgrade the equipment and make it accessible for everyone.

Whetsell estimates the changes will be completed in phases over a period of about two years. Upgrades to the park may not be the only changes coming to Lewis County.

“I thoughtfully enjoy being your county commissioner… We’ve done a lot in the last six years,” Boyle said, adding that he and the other Lewis County commissioners have been able to build a new courthouse annex where the Magistrate and Circuit Courts are now located. “That was a huge endeavor… it’s a beautiful building and it’s definitely been an asset to the county.”

Whetsell said Lewis County was outgrowing the facilities that were originally constructed to accommodate a smaller government in the past. She said the old buildings weren’t constructed to house the amount of agencies the county government now provides.

“The plan is to have a more efficient government complex for the citizens and the staff,” Whetsell said.

Boyle said there are plans to renovate the city’s old jail building, making use of it as the new county assessor’s office. Although funding hasn’t been secured for the project, Whetsell said there is definitely a resolve to move forward with it. Both Whetsell and Boyle individually said engineers and architects already are working on the potential project.

If the renovation plans for the government complex come to fruition, the old assessor’s office would be utilized as the county clerk’s office, Boyle said. Whetsell said officials are still waiting for an official cost estimate on the project.

“We’re needing this space terribly bad,” Boyle said.

Other projects include replacing the roofing and gutters on the old jails and Sheriff’s Department, and repainting the government buildings owned by tax payers on the courthouse campus after having them sandblasted and cleaned as needed. Boyle said the county will keep to the traditional yellow color as closely as possible.