Just off the I-15 and U.S. Highway 6 interchange in Spanish Fork, nestled among a plethora of businesses, and along the edges an entire shopping center, lies 10 acres of beautifully landscaped, and carefully constructed community space plainly dubbed North Park.
Though the park is now a fixture in the area with amenities for all ages, it wasn’t always that way. Plans to reconstruct the park while retail development took place faltered with an economic downturn, leaving the original park area decimated in 2007, and the city’s hopes for a quick rebuild stalled.
"The razing of that park was a controversial issue," said then-Spanish Fork assistant city manager Seth Perrins in a Daily Herald article from Dec. 2009. "The intent all along was to replace the park with something better, but the longer that that park was not there, the more negative sentiment there was about what we had done."
That’s when the city took things into their own hands, and with $4 million approved from city reserves to be recouped through eventual sales tax revenue, construction was soon underway.
The original North Park once housed two ball diamonds, a pond, walking trails and open spaces. Seeking ways for the area to be improved, the new park opened in fall of 2010, featuring one of Utah County’s first splash pads, as well as multiple play structures, enclosed pavilions, an amphitheater-style plaza, a gazebo, plenty of shaded areas, green space and walking trails, ultimately creating a space even more carefully adapted to a growing and thriving community.
“Not only we as the city, but also residents view North Park as kind of a showcase park,” said Spanish Fork Public Information Officer and Management Analyst Scott Aylett of the re-imagined park. “It’s at the gateway to the community and we take a lot of pride in it. … Residents really love the park, they love the amenities, and generally speaking, we kind of see it as an upgrade over the park that was originally there.”
Though it’s been almost exactly nine years since the park’s grand re-opening, that hasn’t led to a decrease in its public use and popularity.
With that in mind, here are 10 great things worth checking out at North Park in Spanish Fork.
— By Kari Kenner, Daily Herald
A commitment to the community
As mentioned, the rebuilding and improvement of North Park was really was the fulfillment of a commitment to the community. Though it took several years longer than anticipated, not only was the area once again opened to the public, but more carefully adapted to residents of all ages. Amenities such as ample green space and walking paths from the original North Park were kept in plans for the renovated area, while improvements including pavilions, play areas and a splash pad made the area the family-friendly destination that it is today.
“Residents love it and we hear great things from those who use it,” Aylett said. “It really is kind of a showcase park for us, one that we’re really proud of. I think it’s been a great asset and addition to our community.”
Though the walking trails and green space are great, one of the best features of North Park is the attention to shade. Many of the shade trees are still quite small, but parents and children alike can appreciate the careful coverage of almost the entire play area with a variety of shade structures and sails. In the throes of summer, there’s a dramatic difference in temperature while playing beneath the shades, which also block out a lot of harmful UV light, allowing for even more summer fun.
The patios, picnic areas and pavilions are also largely covered, and guests who bring a blanket can easily enjoy the park from the shade of a nearby tree.
With so much space making up the entirety of North Park, the careful details regarding the structures make it all the more a unique place to recreate. Not only are there are variety of pavilions and picnic tables around the playground, but an enclosed bathroom and drinking fountain area between the play structures and the splash pad and a larger pavilion off to a side of the park that boasts not only a restroom, but enclosed picnic areas with garage-style doors than can be rolled down in case of inclement weather. The area will hold 320 people, making it the perfect place for a family reunion or outdoor event.
Other structural features also include a gazebo, garden areas and a small amphitheater-style area adjacent to the splash pad with tiered seating and plenty of potential for community use.
A splash pad
Though most Utah County cities now have some form of watery entertainment for local summer fun, the splash pad at North Park in Spanish Fork was one of the first to be opened in the area, making the play space quite the unique amenity not only for locals, but for those from cities nearby.
Though pretty uncomplicated in construction (just a large, round concrete area featuring a variety of fountains and jets), it provides the perfect amount of fun in the sun for kids of all ages, with water works open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., approximately 10 minute breaks each hour and an hour-long break from 2-3 p.m. daily.
Aside from the wide coverage of the splash pad itself, the circular area has benches all the way around, with even more grassy or shaded areas between to throw down a blanket and keep an eye on the little ones. The proximity to the bathroom is also a big plus for the setup, and the gazebo area is adjacent on the opposite side offering something fun to do while the water shuts off.
So many swings
Focusing in on the play area of North Park, one of the easiest things to notice is the semi-circle of swing sets lining the back of the playground. Separated by a sidewalk, multiple swing sets are designed to accommodate kids of all ages and abilities. Though they unfortunately aren’t covered under the sun shades and sails like the main park, multiple adaptive swings, infant and toddler swings and traditional swings still provide a fun chance for kids to soar, and the sheer number of them means there’s not a lot of waiting.
Toddler play and slides
Is a playground really a playground without a slide? A staple of most play areas, North Park has a long play structure that not only houses multiple slides, but also ample play space for toddlers and smaller children. Several different types of slides adorn the structure, as well as a fun periscope, tunnel, bridge and more, allowing for a wider range of ages to appreciate the entire park setup.
A ropes course
For those a little more daring, one of the main features of the North Park playground is a ropes course, with unique rope bridges, walls, tunnels and more. Netted walls allow for vertical climbing, while suspended rings create rope tunnels, small discs provide a base for rope steps, and angular bases make up unique ladders and connectors from one feature to the next.
Plenty of climbing
It’s not just the ropes that make the playground unique though. Interspersed are a variety of climbing structures, including a rock wall, metal poles and steps and even a giant boulder structure perfect for climbing. While most other playgrounds boast a few places to climb, it’s not uncommon to see older kids especially climbing on structures where they probably shouldn’t be. At North Park, the entire play area is designed so that’s not really an issue, as pretty much everything from top to bottom is meant to be played on and enjoyed.
Though North Park features playground must-haves such as slides and swing sets, it’s also carved a space for the unique, with several different styles of teeter-totters, spinning toys and more. Stairs leading to dual bars make a fun take on a slide, while a variety of poles and shaped structures throughout the playground are mobile for spinning, bouncing swinging and more.
“Our mantra here in Spanish Fork is we’re going to do it the Spanish Fork way, and we’re going to do it right,” Aylett said. “In redesigning the park, that’s the kind of approach we took: Let’s do it right, do it the Spanish Fork way and do something we haven’t done before.”
Proximity to other amenities
Though there’s plenty to do at North Park that could keep families and individuals engaged throughout the day, another fun aspect of it is its location. You may not expect to find a park nestled between major roadways and a busy shopping center, but a parking area and green space allow just enough separation on all sides for the location to be more a boon than a bust. It’s convenient to get to quickly, parking is adjacent to all major features and it’s literally a two minute max ride to delicious dining, grocery shopping and the best way to cool off on a hot summer day: cheap ice cream cones courtesy of the nearby Macey’s. According to Aylett, it was the moving and renovation of the park that made most of those resources a possibility for Spanish Fork, offering a couple great wins for the city. If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out North Park, it’s certainly worth the trip!