A Place For Seniors To Stretch Out

Founded in 1890 and consisting of 33 acres, Ellwood Park is Amarillo’s oldest park. Over the past 20 years, the park has experienced declining use and activity, so the director of parks and recreation initiated a demographic study of the surrounding neighborhoods to find out why. The analysis indicated a sharp increase in the number of seniors living adjacent to the park. The director and staff members then initiated a park redevelopment process to create a new senior park.

A Good Cause

Although total construction costs amounted to $495,000, there was more than one helping hand in funding the project. For instance, Baptist Community Services, a subsidiary of Baptist Hospitals, which operates 675 senior residential units in seven different complexes, donated $15,830 for the construction of a performance stage.

Upon hearing of the news for a senior park, Dusty McGuire, coordinator of Keep Amarillo Beautiful, contacted the city manager to offer the organization’s support. “Amarillo needed a park where the aging population could be outdoors to exercise in order to maintain an active lifestyle,” McGuire says.

The parks department worked closely with McGuire to refine the master plan. While the city commission approved $200,000 for construction and development, Keep Amarillo Beautiful contributed $210,000. But it still wasn’t enough. So, upon further consideration, the organization donated an additional $18,000, bringing private donations to $243,830.

Construction plans were finalized and opened for bids in April 2009. A construction contract was awarded in May 2009.

The construction base bid of $226,900 provided funding for:

• A ¼-mile lighted walking trail

• A variety of park benches and seat swings along the walking trail

• Game and picnic tables

• Two 10-station exercise systems with rubberized cushion surfaces.

Bending The Budget

Through cooperative purchasing, the city was able to stretch its dollars even further. For example, a prefabricated police substation building was purchased for $59,946. Utilities and a pre-engineered building pad were prepared by the park construction crew. Next to the substation, a prefabricated restroom building was purchased for $41,500 and similarly installed.

In addition, the park’s existing irrigation system was protected during the construction of the senior facilities and modified by the parks irrigation crew to save an estimated $120,000.

Ellwood Senior Park was dedicated on April 30, 2010.

More To Come

The redevelopment of Amarillo’s oldest park now provides a variety of activities and special events specifically designed for seniors.

A new partnership with the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association and Baptist Community Services will combine staff resources to plan and host new activities, such as a walking program, fitness classes for the new exercise stations, musical concerts and themed special events.

Future improvements include installing the city’s fourth dog park, six horseshoe courts and a community garden where seniors can reserve a spot to cultivate.

For more information, visit www.amarilloparks.org and click on the senior park link.

Larry Offerdahl is the director of parks and recreation for the city of Amarillo. He can be reached via e-mail at larry.offerdahl@amarillo.gov.