Plans released for new Joplin city park at old St. John’s Hospital location

Plans released for new Joplin city park at old St. John’s Hospital location
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The City of Joplin releases plans, detailing a new park on a site with deep connections to a lot of Four Staters.

There’s already a small pavilion at the old St. John’s Hospital location at 26th and McClelland Boulevard. Soon, there will be much more.

“I was working overtime at the station number three,” says Kevin Theilen, a Joplin resident. “Our crew, when it (old St. John’s Hospital) got hit, we got called to St. John’s Hospital.”

Theilen was a Joplin firefighter at the time of the tornado. As he looks over where St. John’s Hospital used to be, there’s bare land with foundations holding up memories. Theilen says many of those memories are too horrific to share.

He says there’s a fine line between remembering what happened, and going “too far.”

“I don’t like to celebrate it,” says Theilen.

City officials hope a new park at the old hospital’s location will be the perfect mixture of remembering the past, yet letting the future heal.

“It’s a park that will provide a lot of passive recreational opportunities,” says Joplin Councilman Bill Scearce.

Cunningham Park, across the street from the old hospital location, offers more direct activities with a playground and basketball courts. The new park will only include plenty of green space, walking trails, shelters with restrooms, and a lake.

Scearce hopes a fence is put around this lake.

“They need the depth of six and eight feet for fountains. My opinion is, the fountains aren’t worth it,” says Scearce, who is worried children will fall in and drown.

Overall, though, Scearce and Theilen agree that this area needs this park.

You can’t have too much happy in a place of so many sad memories.

“The people in Joplin pulled together so well. I think they deserve something nice,” says Theilen.

City officials hope the new park is completed by May. You can pick up a form at city hall to suggest a name for the new park. The cost of the park, which is a little more than four million dollars, will be covered by federal disaster recovery funds.