After a delayed liftoff due to COVID-19, a space-themed renovation will be coming soon to a city of Kent downtown park.
The Kent City Council on June 7 unanimously approved an $1.62 million contract to renovate Kherson Park, 317 W. Gowe St., after Lakewood-based Green Tech Excavation submitted the lowest bid among three companies.
“This is going to be a phenomenal project,” Kent City Council President Bill Boyce said.
New children’s play features at the park will capture the imagination and historical ties to the city’s legacy in the aerospace industry, according to city documents. The improvements will include a 40-foot backdrop for the Lunar Rover replica and a replica life-size astronaut; a video projection system; new lighting; and daytime use areas.
The first and only crewed surface transportation system designed to operate on the Moon was designed, tested and built in 1969 by Boeing for NASA in Kent. Commonly known as the Lunar Rover or Moon Buggy, the four-wheeled vehicles were last used during Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 between 1971-72. Three of the Kent-built Lunar Rovers remain on the Moon today and were designated as King County historic landmarks in 2019 and Washington State Historic Landmarks in 2020.
The park will include a lunar lander structure where children can go inside an imagine they are piloting it. There also will be a mission control area where children can talk to one another, including to those in the play structure.
“We are expecting to start construction in early July and anticipate project completion late fall 2022,” said Terry Jungman, city parks planning and development manager, in an email.
The Kent Downtown Partnership heads a fundraising campaign to help pay for the renovation at the park. The group set a goal of raising $1.2 million.
A city engineer estimated the cost at $950,000 to $1.15 million, according to city documents.
Jungman told the council several reasons contributed to the higher bids that included Snohomish-based A-1 Landscaping and Construction at $1.81 million.
“We have our highest inflation in 31 years,” Jungman said. “The cost of materials is up 15% to 26%. Fuel costs are the highest ever.”
Jungman said other factors included bids during a concrete workers strike, supply chain challenges due to COVID-19, and that the project is at an urban park with no parking for a contractor.
“Market conditions are really driving this one up,” Jungman said.
The bid includes $75,000 to help cover small changes to the project.
Despite the higher costs, Jungman told the council he’s excited about the park renovation.
“It will be a place for kids to learn about Kent’s history of innovation in aerospace and they can imagine themselves in these positions,” Jungman said.
The council in 2019 approved spending $123,615 for a company to build the Lunar Rover replica, although more than $85,000 of that was to be covered by private fundraising efforts.
That contract was with Issaquah-based Northwest Playground Equipment. The company is a local representative of Minnesota-based Cre8Play, a custom park and play environment fabricator that specializes in innovative concepts for play elements. City Parks staff recommended that Cre8Play be the selected vendor to build the replica with the city to purchase it through Northwest Playground Equipment.
“This park will do great things for downtown,” Councilmember Zandria Michaud said.