Lee Street playground

The new playground at American Falls’ Lee Street Park is expected to open by July 4, weather permitting.

AMERICAN FALLS — Folks driving past Lee Street have driven a little slower, says Chris Fehringer, once they spot the newest addition at the park — a children’s playground which currently has the tallest tower and slide in Idaho.

“It’s been a challenge for people not to be on it,” said Fehringer, the organized recreation superintendent for the city’s parks and recreation department.

The playground, which has yet to be declared officially finished and opened, came to be thanks to the $150,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce that the city of American Falls received back in October.

City council member Kristen Jensen worked with Michael Patton, community development specialist for the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments, on receiving the grant.

“It’s going to be a huge improvement for our park,” Fehringer said. “Our other structures are twenty-plus years old. So it’s going to be pretty exciting.”

The playground, which has a tower whose peak reaches a whopping 23 feet tall, features interactive musical toys such as chimes and xylophones, a 16-foot tall slide, and equipment designed for all youth age groups.

According to Fehringer, this interactive and inclusive element was something a committee composed of young parents, city personnel and elected officials pushed for when making the decision on the details of the playground.

“We had some stipulations that we wanted slides and a playground that met all age requirements,” Fehringer said. “There’s one for the younger kids and then there’s one for the older kids. One of the other stipulations was music. It’s very interactive and we also have a three-in-a-row game which all age groups can use. They wanted something that all kids can enjoy.”

The equipment, which replaced an older set, was installed a few weeks ago by Play Now Playground and was designed by Boise resident Bill Short. It was manufactured by BCI Burke Playground Equipment.

“It’s 100 percent American-made,” Short said.

The play site is almost complete. The last bit of work that needs to be done is the ground surface, which will be poured-in-place rubber surfacing. It will replace the wood chips that preceded it, and in turn keep the playground cleaner and more well-kept, Fehringer said.

“It’ll be a couple of days wait once they pour the new base and then it should be ready to go,” he said. “We’re hoping to have it open by the Fourth of July, if weather permits.”

Along with the new addition of the playground, Lee Park also features a dog park installed last year as part of a senior project, a skate park, and several baseball fields. Fehringer said a future goal would be to update the swing set by the new playground and add in other amenities such as a gazebo or small shelter to help cultivate a more family-oriented park.

As for short-term goals, Fehringer said they will be holding a grand opening or ribbon cutting ceremony to officially announce the playground as open.

“I think we’ll get a lot more use in this park,” he said. “It’s exciting.”