The long-awaited playground at Washington’s Phoenix Park moved one step closer to reality on Wednesday as the city’s park board finalized its recommendation for the playground’s design and color scheme. 

Members of the park board ultimately voted 5-4 to back a navy blue color scheme over 32 different color options, including a brown and tan color combination. 

“I understand the nature part, but I like the blue. It makes it stand out, makes it pop,” said Tessie Steffens, a member of the park board. 

This would not be the first burst of color to appear in a Washington playground. At Optimist Park, 2000 E. Ninth St., the playground is orange. The playground equipment at All Abilities Park, 1220 S. Lakeshore Drive, is a combination of red, blue and yellow. The recently installed equipment at Main Park is various shades of green. 

The recommendations now go to the Washington City Council for final approval. If approved, the new playground at Phoenix Park will feature seven slides, a rock climbing wall, a merry-go-round, rope walls and more. 

“It has a lot of features for a variety of different ages of kids,” said Washington Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Dunker. “It has stuff for young kids between 2 and 5 years old and then has some more advanced stuff for kids between 5 and 12 years old.”

The surface of the playground, which is an engineered wood fiber surface that resembles wooden mulch, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Dunker said. 

Initially expected to cost $245,000, Dunker said Wednesday that an increase in material costs has pushed the price tag to $277,000. The city has budgeted $250,000 from the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax, according to city officials. 

“The city understands that prices have gone up,” Dunker said. “It is probably still a doable project.”

Tax funds would not be used to finance the site grading, base rock for the playground, concrete curbing, sidewalks or landscaping, according to city leaders.

This will be the first city-owned playground south of Highway 100, according to city officials. 

Installation of the playground in Phoenix Park is expected to be completed sometime in 2022. Dunker said materials for the playground are not expected to be ready until January at the earliest. 

Once the playground is installed, the 20-acre Phoenix Park will boast lighted tennis courts, a 4,100-foot walking trail, a 50-foot bridge at the northern area of the park and an 85-foot bridge crossing a creek that runs through the park. There are also six ponds in the park, and more than 100 trees were planted prior to the park’s opening in 2012. 

Phoenix Park is the third-largest park in Washington’s park system, trailing only the Miller-Post Nature Reserve, a 67-acre park that features a 2-mile walking trail, and the Busch Creek Disc Golf Course, a 30-acre park that opened in 2019. 

The creation of Phoenix Park was the biggest addition to the city’s sprawling park system since 2002, when the eastern portions of Rotary Riverfront Trail officially opened. 

It was also reported at Wednesday’s meeting that the city has received funds to purchase the second shade umbrella at the new Agnes Nolting Aquatic Complex. The donation comes from Ann Tobben Schaeperkoetter, a Washington native, who Dunker said read The Missourian’s coverage of the pool’s opening and decided to make the donation. Schaeperkoetter is the daughter of the late Omar D. and Rose Tobben.  

Schaeperkoetter’s donated umbrella will shade the area near the north end of the pool, including the area around the lap lanes.

Dunker said the city is planning on recognizing both Schaeperkoetter and the Washington Rotary Club, who donated the funds to purchase the first shade umbrella for the pool, at a later date and time. 

Dunker also reported that work is continuing on replacing the sidewalks at Heritage Park near the caboose on Front Street. 

He said the steel for the new pavilions at Lions Lake is now expected to arrive in early November.