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RUPERT — After years of planning an upgrade to the city’s center park, business owners, residents who voted for a bond to pay for it and people who worked on committees during the renovation planning stages talk about how they feel about the project.

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Joyce Jensen

Joyce Jensen

Joyce Jensen, owner of The Gathering Place

“I’m excited about the park and the ice-skating rink,” Jensen said. “Our customers keep saying they hope we’re not doing away with the park.”

It was sad to see the grass and some of the trees go, she said, “And it will be nice when the dirt stops flying.”

The quilt and fabric shop celebrated its 20th anniversary in the old Roper’s building at the northwest corner of the Square in September and it is one of the largest of its type in the nation with more than 17,000 bolts of fabric — when an average shop carries around 2,500.

Jensen has lived in Rupert since 1954 and when the building came up for sale, she didn’t hesitate to make the investment.

“Many of our customers are tourists and they come from across the U.S. and from around the world,” Jensen said.

On average, customers from seven different states come into the shop every day and people from Salt Lake City and Boise visit daily.

She often directs her customers to eat at establishments on the Square and to relax at the park.

“They love to go across the street and spend time at the park,” Jensen said. “The park is a vital place for our customers.”

Her one concern with the new design is the change from two lanes of traffic to one.

Many of her customers drive to the shop in recreational vehicles so parking is also a concern.

“Overall, I’m really glad it’s being done,” Jensen said. “I think it will be real quaint and unique.”

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Raul Rios

Raul Rios

Raul Rios, Rupert resident

“The park is the centerpiece of the city,” Rios said. “I’m OK with the changes as long as the park stays in the same place. It’s nice that they’re upgrading it. From the pictures I’ve seen it looks nice with the fountains.”

Rios grew up in the area and has many fond memories of the park.

“Especially during Christmas and the Fourth of July celebrations,” he said.

Rios is also concerned about the change to one lane of traffic.

“We come to the Square during my wife’s lunch break and we like to be able to get in and out quickly,” he said.

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Nicole Pratt

Nicole Pratt

Nicole Pratt, owner of Mad River Laser

“A lot of work and planning has gone into it,” Pratt said. “I think we’ll now see a lot more business growth on the Square. I think it’s going to be a beautiful place where people can gather.”

Pratt said she has no concerns about any of the changes.

“I am happy about all of them,” she said. “Right now with parking on both sides of the road, if you have people pulling out of parking spaces at the same time, you have to really hug the middle of the road.

“Having one-lane, one way will probably be easier,” she said.

Pratt grew up ice skating so she is also looking forward to having a skating rink at the town’s center and she expects that all the new amenities at the park will further increase business at her shop.

“Nothing beats people actually coming to the Square and seeing the shop,” she said.

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Sydney Duffin

Sydney Duffin

Becky Gomez, Rupert Square Task Force Committee member and manager at The Book Store

Gomez said when the task force began going over the master plan for the park they could not imagine how the funds would be raised.

“I grew up in Rupert and I don’t want it to become a ghost town,” Gomez said about the years of work that she invested in the renovation process.

She watches the construction going on at the park daily from The Book Store.

“I’ve watched them fell trees, dig holes and pull concrete and piping out of the ground. I was shocked by how much garbage was underneath the ground. It hurt to see the trees going down but they had bug infestations,” she said. “Change, however, is inevitable and you either let things fall apart or you do something to move forward.”

When customers question the work underway across the street, Gomez often explains the entire plan to them.

“Once people really understand the plans they are generally supportive of them,” she said. “It will be a nice place for people to come together and it will provide a sense of community again.”

Sydney Duffin, owner of Tease, The Hair Place

“I love it, I’m so excited,” Duffin said, who has a hair salon across from the Square. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the upgrades. Let’s revamp the town.”

Duffin grew up in Rupert and only missed a couple of years of celebrating the Fourth of July at the Square while growing up.

The changes, she said, will bring only good things for her shop.

“At noontime it’s really busy on the Square,” she said. “Especially when it’s raining and the farmers are not in their fields. They come here to eat lunch and get a haircut.”

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