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Arlington park named after volunteer caretaker to get upgrade

01/13/2013 11:00 PM

01/14/2013 12:11 AM

ARLINGTON -- Randy Wilkes walks his dog Murphy every day in the east Arlington neighborhood park named for his grandfather.

Soon, he and other residents who visit Burl Wilkes Park at 2000 Reever St. will be able to enjoy new amenities, including a concrete looped walking trail, a pavilion and an irrigated practice field.

The City Council approved spending nearly $295,000 in federal grant money and park fees last week to redevelop the 3-acre park.

"I wasn't really expecting anything above and beyond what is done already. It's a nice little park," said Randy Wilkes, who lives in what was his grandfather's home. "I'm looking forward to the improvements."

The city named the park for Burl Wilkes, who retired as a part-time worker from the parks department at age 80, several years ago at the request of his neighbors. Wilkes, now deceased, voluntarily took care of the little-known park near his home with his own equipment, time and money until he was 86.

Curious why the park was always so neatly mowed and clean, the parks department had an employee set up watch for three days until he spotted Wilkes riding his bike to the park dragging a lawnmower behind him.

"He enjoyed the labor. He needed something to do," Randy Wilkes said. "When they told him he couldn't work for the city anymore, that was the closest park to his house. Before long, he was doing everything."

Work on the park is expected to begin in late February or early March and will take about 4 1/2 months to complete, Parks Project Manager Jason Landrem said.

Arlington will use $142,200 in Community Development Block Grant funds, as well as park fees, for the project. The city also plans to spend $50,000, half of which comes from an Arlington Tomorrow Foundation grant, to install lighting along the new looped trail, Landrem said. "Providing a trail gives the opportunity for the public to use the park even more in a safe walking environment," he said.

Other planned amenities include new picnic areas and barbecue grills, benches, a drinking fountain and new entryway sign. The city will also build a 2,000-square-foot skateboard feature designed for beginning and intermediate-level skateboarders, Landrem said.

The city will also replace the edging around playground equipment that was installed about four years ago.

Online: www.naturallyfun.org

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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