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Future Copper Ridge park location

The location of a new park which is to be built in the Copper Ridge subdivision sits unused Friday, Sept. 27, 2019 in Billings.

Residents in the Copper Ridge subdivision on the far West End appear to finally have all the pieces in place to get a playground built on its park space there.  

"People have tried to make this happen for years," said Jenna Jones, a Copper Ridge resident and a member of the park committee working to raise funds to build the playground. 

Residents took up the effort again earlier this year when a group formed a formal park committee and decided to raise funds for the playground as opposed to working through the city to try and form a special improvement district to fund it. 

Special improvement districts collect fees from the property owners who live within the district. Those fees are then used to build, maintain or improve a specific project in the area, like a park. However, in order to create a special improvement district, a majority of the residents living inside the district have to approve it with a vote. 

"We decided we would just fundraise," Jones said. 

Residents in Copper Ridge believed it would be easier to get the money they needed to build the playground by asking residents to donate to the project and by writing for grants that would support the construction. The parkland on which the playground will be built already exists. 

Efforts to raise the money started in earnest two weeks ago and on Thursday night the Copper Ridge Development Corp. donated $20,000 to the effort. Residents have donated roughly an additional $20,000 over the last two weeks. 

"I love projects like this," Nichole Hamnes, a Copper Ridge resident and the chairwoman of the playground committee, said in a statement. "It has actually been really fun to get to know the neighbors as we knock on doors. People have generally been really excited and supportive."

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The space for the park sits at the lower end of a large parcel right in the middle of the subdivision. Under state law, a developer of a subdivision is required to either dedicate a certain amount of land for parks or to pay the city the equivalent in cash, said Nicole Cromwell, the city's zoning coordinator.

At one end of the park space is a hill that neighborhood kids have used for sledding. At the foot of the hill is a grassy field residents use for sports practices. Both the hill and field would remain as part of the park's development. The playground would be built next to the sports field. 

The Copper Ridge park committee has three playground designs it can use depending on how much they're able to raise. The smallest and cheapest option costs $115,000. The largest is $190,000. 

The price for the playgrounds includes money needed to build a sidewalk around the playground and install parking, two requirements from the city. The committee has until May to raise the funds. The Billings Community Foundation, a registered nonprofit organization, is collecting the money, which will make donations tax deductible.

Already the concrete and the concrete work has been donated to the project, Jones said. That work will be done once construction on the playground starts.  

She's optimistic about the process. 

"It's been a really great response," she said. "I think it's really going to happen."

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