Outside, temperatures are just now starting to cool down as summer swings into fall.  But even in the heat over the last few months, kids playing at Cribbs Family Youth Park still managed to stay cool under the shade of a new canopy thanks to a well-known local group operating under a new name.

Friends of Bolivar Parks, formerly Friends of Dunnegan Park, made the project possible. 

Chairman John Best said the group had concerns that kids playing at the park could be burned by the sun-heated plastic on its slides. 

Best said, however, he hadn’t heard any reports of children being burned by the equipment. 

According to previous BH-FP coverage, in 2017, the city received several concerns from residents regarding hot playground equipment. The issue was discussed at a July 11, 2017, board of aldermen meeting. 

At the time, aldermen discussed adding a canopy and later placed signs warning that playground equipment at the park could get warm enough to burn children.

According to previous BH-FP coverage, a child’s feet were also reportedly burned by a hot metal grate near the park’s entrance in June 2017. City crews built a fence around the grate within a day of receiving a concerned email from the child’s mother. 

Best said the nonprofit group had worked for about a year to raise funds for the protective canopy. They were installed in June. 

Best said the group had also considered adding an overhang from the historic pool house. 

“I think that would have taken away from the building,” he said. 

After studying the space it had to work with, Best said the group went with a green and brown color scheme for the canopies, selecting a manufacturer in Monett for the job.

“We bought what we thought was most in line with the ambiance of the park,” he said.

New name, same goal

Best, a former Bolivar mayor and current cardiologist at Citizens Memorial Hospital, said the name change made sense. 

He formed the nonprofit as mayor in 2014 to pursue projects at Dunnegan Memorial Park. 

“These other (parks) were of minor interest,” he said. 

Since then, though, Best said the group’s focus has broadened. It successfully built the mile-long walking path around Dunnegan Memorial Park, which was completed in 2018. 

A 2016 project at Cribbs Family Youth Park filled in an old swimming pool to create space for a splash pad and other new amenities, including basketball courts and playground equipment, Best said.

“I felt like we had some beautiful parks, but they were outdated,” he said. “The cardiologist part of me wanted people to be more active.”

The group is currently working on a southward expansion at the youth park, acquiring several lots and razing empty homes, with plans to add new amenities, including a possible garden, an amphitheater, parking, space for sports and a larger building for Polk County KLIFE. 

“We changed the name because we felt it reflected more of our mission to improve all the parks in Bolivar,” Best said. 

Best said the group is still working on acquiring the deed for one home left in the park’s planned annexation zone.

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