Cape Girardeau – Sometimes the right people come together to make something special.
That’s what happened when the City of Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department reached out to the local Building Trades Council for help constructing a new, elaborate park pavilion at Capaha Park. The project coincided with the installation of a new playground at the park, which had once been home to a city pool.
Parks and Recreation Director Julia Thompson said the 40-acre Capaha Park is one of the “oldest and best loved parks in the city.”
“We bought the materials and they donated the manhours,” Thompson said. “Our guys were able to work on the playground and the unions worked on the pavilion, so we were able to do it concurrently.
“It’s a great pavilion design. It’s got a prettier look to it than some park pavilions because it’s got the scallops on top. It really makes a great statement because it’s at the top of the park and overlooks the playground.”
And the community outreach by the participating building trades unions fit it well with the park department’s collaborative approach to the project.
“Parks and Rec. folks love to collaborate on community projects,” Thompson said. “The more people we can involve in helping make our community better, that’s what we’re all about. So this was just a natural.”
Cape Girardeau’s Mayor Harry Rediger saw an opportunity to collaborate with the local building trades to save the city funds and build stronger relations with the city’s unions, Thompson said.
Union volunteers met with Parks and Recreation staff to see where best they could help and determined that the building trades would construct the new 40′ x 30′ park pavilion.
Work began in late 2014 and through a rough winter and spring; progressed through the summer with a final completion of the pavilion, site work, new playground and installation of all the site amenities last month. A ribbon cutting was held Oct. 23.
“This pavilion project has been a great public/private partnership and has enabled our city and Parks Department expand the total project, adding to the children’s playground and keeping the budget in line,” Rediger said. “I want to thank the (Building Trades Union*) for their many hours of donated labor to bring this project to fruition. We look forward to working together on a common project for the community in the future.”
Rediger and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 Business Representative J.J. Lane and Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 36 Business Representative Tom Leonard commented during the ceremony on what a wonderful project this was for the citizens and visitors to Cape Girardeau to enjoy; especially knowing that it was a team effort to complete.
The city hasn’t always gone union with its projects, Leonard said, so the pavilion project seemed like an opportunity to build some bridges.
“We thought if we could do something to put us in a better light with the city, we would do it,” Leonard said. “We need to get more publicity about the work we do in our communities, but we’re not usually one to toot our own horn.”
Leonard said the unions donated about 800 manhours worth about $50,000 for the project.
Thompson said a permanent plaque will be mounted at the pavilion thanking the unions that helped to get it built.
“We’re very grateful for these volunteer efforts from our unions and the skill and time it takes to do this type of work,” Thompson said. “Maybe this will be the start of many new community improvements in the future!”
Capaha park sits in the middle of the city and has been around since the 1800s, when it was used as the area’s fairgrounds. In fact, it was known as Fairground Park for many years before it was developed into a city park in the 1930s. The park used to house the city’s oldest swimming pool, which was recently demolished because of its age.
The park is currently the home of the Southeast Missouri State University Baseball Team and has several pavilions, small playgrounds, a stormwater lagoon, an amphitheatre where a municipal band plays concerts every summer, a disc golf course, a basketball court, a rose garden and beautiful grassy park areas with stately old trees.
Phase 1 of the master plan for the park involved replacing an old playground and adding the large pavilion.