NEWKIRK — A team of local community members was recently seen spread out across the Newkirk city basketball court, located next the the city swimming pool. They weren’t players on a team, however, as they were volunteering their time and efforts to offer the court some much-needed tender loving care, as community supporters are actively bringing a new pride and life into Newkirk.
The project is only the latest in a string of projects in the community, which includes the Newkirk Fitness Pathway and Route to School projects, refurbished buildings downtown and a mural welcoming visitors on North Main Street.
Earlier this spring, Kaci Andrews, a Newkirk High School student and talented artist, saw the basketball court on the east side of the Newkirk city swimming pool, as a blank canvas. The park is located in the 800 block of West 10th Street.
Andrews had completed some chalk art on the court as an activity to do during the pandemic. After rain, however, her artwork had disappeared. In order to add permanent artwork to the park, she presented a design proposal to Jane Thomas, Newkirk City Manager. Upon approval from Thomas, Andrews began adding art to the space.
The city of Newkirk provided the paint and supplies for the project. Each of the utility poles on the east side of the park has an original design created by Andrews. Ernie Horinek replaced the wood benches so she could also add artwork to them, as well. Horinek and his granddaughters, Brooke and Bailey Backhaus, also restriped the basketball court.
Community volunteers who assisted Andrews were Rosemary Hobbs, Lindsay Vap, Kaylin, Jax and Jenny West, Kim Shanks, Angel Gatchell and Hannah and Kelle Cross.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much history recorded about the 10th Street park. However, Karen Dye’s “Newkirk Carved in Stone” book states that the municipal swimming pool, located next to the park, was built in 1938. Fifty-four men were employed during the construction of the pool project, with a total cost of $17,915. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) furnished $8,467 and the remainder was furnished by the city of Newkirk.
The dedication of the pool was on Aug. 11, 1938, with a team from Enid, Okla. giving a swimming and diving exhibition. One-thousand people attended the ceremonies, with 250 actually going into the pool. A 10-ft. tower and two diving boards were located on the east end of the pool.
There is a theory that the park was constructed in the same period as the swimming pool. Many remember playing tennis and badminton at the park before it was converted to a basketball court. At one time there were lights on the court for usage after dark.
According to The Trust for Public Land, research shows that parks promote public health and revitalize local economies…they connect people to the great outdoors and to each other. Individualizing parks through the use of public art can create a site that is meaningful, relevant and personal to the user as well as connect the site to the broader community.