RUPERT — Workers bustled around the Square last week, spraying off sidewalks, working on street lamps and planting flowers as Rupert geared up for its park dedication on Saturday and festivities through July 4.
City officials held a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday as part of the city’s Fourth of July celebration.
During the past year, the city completely revamped the town’s central park with a new water fountain that marks the spot of the first community well, new sidewalks, a veterans memorial corner, a water feature that commemorates Minidoka Dam, a refurbished the gazebo, wider sidewalks in front of the merchant shops around the Square, new bulb pedestrian walkways at the park’s corners, and new street lamps and pots for flowers.
The work has also included revamping Fremont Street, where the city’s new skating rink is set up for use next week next to the Wilson Theatre.
“Someone really did a good job planning all of this,” resident Ellen Pherigo said as she sat enjoying breakfast at a park picnic table Wednesday. “That fountain is as fine as any fountain I have seen in Italy.”
Pherigo said the way the park looks now makes her feel proud.
“I can’t wait to show it off to friends and relatives when they visit,” she said. “I’m very excited about the renovation of the town square. They have done a wonderful job and I’m very impressed.”
Rupert voters approved a $3.96 million bond to renovate the park, upgrade the senior center and repair city streets in the spring 2017. The bond gave the city leverage to pursue grants. The city received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for the park and a $900,000 grant for street repairs. The city also received just shy of $200,000 in community cash donations, which does not include in-kind donations.
One interesting aspect of the park renovation is that it was “a community backed project,” City Administrator Kelly Anthon said.
Anthon said every little town struggles with revitalizing their downtown areas and Rupert was no different.
“I have been working on Rupert for six years,” Anthon said. “And I had this moment when I realized if the Rupert Square does not come back to life, Rupert wouldn’t come back to life. The two are tied together.”
The park will be substantially complete and functional for the dedication ceremony on Saturday.
After the Fourth of July celebration, there will be some further refinements necessary, Anthon said.
A sign with sponsors will also be installed at a later date and the city plans to have the new restrooms, which are being constructed in a city-owned building across from the park, complete within a couple of months.
“The park will always require some fine tuning,” Anthon said. “But, it should be in pretty good shape for the next 50 years.”
Becca Gregory, who works at a business on the Square, said everyone should come and see the park.
“I love it, I think it’s beautiful and inviting,” Gregory said. “I was a little worried at first because I liked it how it was before.”
Flora Tamayo, of Heyburn, who also works at a business on the Square, said the merchants should be commended for enduring the inconveniences while the park was renovated.
“We are all creatures of habit and we don’t like change,” she said. “But when we endure it, things can end up more beautiful than they were. The businesses really deserve a shout out because their inconvenience helped make Rupert better.”