Rose Memorial Park gets a playground makeover

Missoula is upgrading the playground at Memorial Rose Garden Park this summer. The design process begins Monday, with workshops for children and adults. (City of Missoula)

Missoula’s Memorial Rose Garden Park on Brooks Street will receive a playground makeover this summer, thanks to a grant from a national nonprofit and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. Work on the design begins Monday, with separate workshops for children and adults.

Missoula Parks & Recreation received funding for the project through KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that organizes playground improvements, with contributions from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and the city.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to create a new playground in place of what’s there now,” said Nathan McLeod, parks & trails design/development coordinator with Missoula Parks & Rec. “It’s going to be expanded, so it’ll be a little bit larger footprint and it’ll have new, modern equipment that will have an increase in play value and an increase in capacity.”

The project’s total cost is estimated at $125,000, with about 80 percent of it funded by BCBSMT. The remaining $25,000 will be funded by the city’s capital improvement program and park impact fees from development. 

“The city’s contribution includes an $8,500 match for equipment purchases and approximately $16,000 for necessary on-site infrastructure upgrades. No increase in maintenance costs are anticipated,” the project’s webpage states.

KaBOOM! will provide the expertise and aid in planning and choosing the new equipment.

To meet KaBOOM!’s criteria for the grant, the park had to be located in a low- to moderate-income neighborhood, be at least 2,500 square feet and be in need of a complete replacement of equipment.

McLeod said Rose Park’s equipment is about 20 years old. The playground will have a 67 percent increase in capacity, will be ADA accessible and will include a new picnic area. 

“The park is central and walkable to the neighborhood, which is important for us, to have a playground that’s walkable to low- to moderate-income children,” McLeod said. “The neighborhood council is pretty active, so that helps us in recruiting volunteers. We’re able to reuse some of the existing infrastructure, so that helps lower our costs.”

About 150 to 200 volunteers are needed to build the playground on Aug. 17.

But first comes the design: Missoula Parks & Recreation will host a children’s design session at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 8, followed by an adult planning session where community members will use the children’s ideas to help choose specific playground equipment options and develop a layout of the playground from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Both of Monday’s sessions are open to the public and are at St. Anthony Parish, 217 Tremont St.

Ward 3 Missoula City Councilor Gwen Jones is excited about the new playground, which is in her ward.

Jones said she helped raise money for a new playground at Paxson Elementary School, and it was an expensive undertaking. Getting a grant and having BCBSMT fund the Memorial Rose Garden Park was a game-changer.

“When you put new playground equipment in, the activity level that you see there will go up exponentially and you get way more engagement,” Jones said.

McLeod said that other parks in Missoula, like 44 Ranch Park and Westside Park, will also get upgrades in the near future. 

A 2015 bond helped replace playgrounds throughout the city, as well as rank each one based on needed upgrades. Memorial Rose Garden Park didn’t qualify at the time, but was next on the list for replacement. 

Missoula residents who would like to volunteer to help build the park in August can register on the Missoula Parks & Recreation website

Contact reporter Mari Hall via email at