Pickleball, disc golf part of Cedar Rapids’ plans for revamped Jones Golf Course

Corey DePauw, Jones Golf Course head superintendent, mows the course at Jones Golf Course in April 2017 in Cedar Rapids. Now that the golf course is closed, city officials are looking at options to repurpose the space, including disc golf and pickleball. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — With no more golf at Jones Park in the southwest quadrant, city officials envision a revamped space with disc golf and pickleball among the features offered in a redesigned venue.

Those items ranked among the top of citizens’ wish lists in a city survey seeking input on plans to repurpose the park — a move the City Council backed in November. The venue had been a drag on the city’s formerly four-course municipal golf system, largely because of closures related to flooding, and more recently from the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho damage.

“We’ll do all the research needed to come up with the best plan including all the input from our own citizens,” Mayor Brad Hart said, adding that he expects it to be a winter recreation destination coupled with other features. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said the city received 1,890 responses to its survey seeking input for the first phase of revamping Jones Park.

The survey asked respondents to rank different options for activities by order of priority. The most people identified disc golf (597), pickleball courts (370) and a dog park as their top choices.

Pickleball is a fast-growing sport, Hock said, and “we don’t have dedicated pickleball courts here, and a lot of communities do.”

The city will need to pick an engineering firm to do the design work on pickleball courts, he said, so officials soon will score proposals, pick a consultant and have a better understanding of the cost to offer pickleball and disc golf spaces.

Hock said disc golf likely will be ready for summer 2022, and the pickleball courts depend on the weather, but work could start this fall and wrap up next spring.

More pollinator spaces ranked among the top options for people’s second-priority items, Hock said. City officials will explore potential funding sources to replace some mowed grass areas with pollinator spaces, he added, which require less maintenance, are good for the environment and handle floodwaters better.

“We have a lot of people that understand the importance of those pollinator areas, but that was good to see as well,” Hock said.

Potentially next spring, he said the community will see upgraded playground equipment at Jones Park, and a previously removed bathroom will eventually be replaced.

This work is part of the city’s first phase to revamp the park, and Hock said these changes will be incorporated permanently. A potential exception could be if trails eventually take up some of the pollinator spaces, but otherwise, disc golf and pickleball courts are here to stay.

Hock said he expects the second phase will involve a consulting firm and community input on design aspects. There is not a firm timeline on that yet as the city continues to work through derecho-related debris pickup and manage the impact of COVID-19.

“One of the focuses is probably going to be winter destination activities,” Hock said.

The park already offers a hill for sledding, he said, but other potential enhancements could bring activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating.

City officials are excited for the changes coming to Jones Park, Hock said.

“Between the pickleball, new playground, new restroom, those are some fun enhancements that are going back for not just the neighborhood, but for everywhere,” Hock said. “Pickleball is going to be a great draw. It’s got a strong base, but there’s a possibility of attracting outside people to come into town if we do it right.”

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