Improvements to the facilities and equipment at Austinburg Park in Covington should begin soon, Covington Parks and Recreation Manager Ben Oldiges told LINK nky.
“We feel like we’re really hitting all of our community needs,” Oldiges said at Covington Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. “And we’re really highlighting all of the insights that the community communicated to us during our community engagement process.”
The park first opened to the public in the 1970s, and it currently features a playground, some basketball courts, a pavilion shelter and an FC Cincinnati mini pitch, one of several small soccer fields throughout the Greater Cincinnati region designed to teach children about the game of soccer.
The FC Cincinnati Foundation installed the mini pitch last year, and it “is actually one of our park system’s most used assets and amenities that we have right now,” Oldiges said.
The parks department began considering improvements to the park in 2021, but the rapid economic changes over the past two years and accompanying changes to the city’s budget subsumed the original cost estimates for the improvements, delaying the projects.
Following some reassessment, however, Oldiges estimated the proposed changes would cost between $260,000 and $305,000, depending on the results of the project’s contract bids.
The proposed improvements include expanded parking — which would require the removal of one of the basketball courts — an additional playground, improvements to the mini pitch, a replacement shelter pavilion, new sidewalks and a dog park. Oldiges said that the department had already identified private donors who were willing to finance the construction of the dog park, so it likely wouldn’t cost the city any money.
“We really wanted to focus in on two things: inclusion and infrastructure for the park,” Oldiges said.
The proposals came as the result of rounds of public input in the form of online surveys and on-site visits.
The new sidewalks will help bring the park up to modern safety and accessibility standards, Oldiges said.
Furthermore, the new playground installation will feature rope climbing fixtures that are both easy to maintain and accessible, he added.
“They’re easy to repair, they’re very functional and they’re beneficial to the city,” Oldiges said. “The feedback that we have from units that are similar to these already in our currently existing park system have been nothing but successful.”
Rope climbing playground fixtures are currently installed in Devou Park.
The commissioners commended the parks department’s ability to adapt to changing construction costs.
“It’s an exceptionally strong pivot,” Commissioner Tim Downing said. “I appreciate that.”
Although an exact date for when the construction will begin has not yet been set, Oldiges said that all of the contracting bids should be completed within the month, meaning construction could begin shortly thereafter.
The next meeting of the Covington Board of Commissioners will take place on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. at Covington City Hall on Pike Street.