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Posted on: May 2, 2022

Belles' Play Garden Grand Opening

Belles' Play Garden

Belles' Play Garden opens this summer at River's Edge Park in Council Bluffs! Grand Opening: Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Belles' Play Garden encompasses a 2,000-square-foot area near River's Edge Pavilion on the east side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. The children's play area features a series of Missouri River-inspired play and educational elements, interpretive seating, and rich native plantings. Belles' focal point is a 15-foot-tall pelican play element with climbing structures, a slide, and a lookout perch with sweeping views of the Omaha skyline and Missouri River banks.

The public is invited to attend the Belles’ Play Garden Grand Opening on Sunday, June 26 at 6:00 p.m. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Celebrations begin at 6:00 p.m. with dedication ceremonies, children's games, inflatables, face painting, balloon artists, Disney princesses, and Marvel characters. At 6:30 p.m., the well-known Disney Junior musical group, Imagination Movers takes the stage for an interactive kids concert. The grand opening festivities conclude with an outdoor screening of Beauty and the Beast at dusk. 

"Belles' Play Garden provides another great place for families to gather and children to play," said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. "We are grateful to our generous donors for bringing this project to life." 

Belles' Play Garden is part of the "Go Play" initiative co-founded by Rick Knudtson & Heather Tomasek, and Marlina & Dusty Davidson. Marlina and Dusty Davidson were born and raised in Council Bluffs. Heather Tomasek formerly worked for the City of Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Department, managing the landscape architecture for Phase II of River's Edge Park. Belles' Play Garden is named after both couple's daughters: Ella (El Belle) Knudtson and Annabelle Davidson. Together with their families, they have committed $200,000 to the project. Back to the River Inc. contributed $100,000 to Belles', and Iowa West Foundation has matched the donations. 

"This Go Play initiative was founded with the hopes of returning the idea of play back to the park and the neighborhoods in the former Playland Park area," Tomasek said. "Both our families have young daughters who love to spend time outside at various parks around the metro, so this is named in their honor. We believe Belles' will reintroduce a new play space that enhances one's sense of discovery and adds to the growing momentum at the riverfront."

The splash area at River's Edge Pavilion will reopen this summer after being temporarily closed due to mechanical issues. The splash area offers a series of five interactive and playful water elements designed to embrace the Missouri River and surrounding ecologies. 

"With the addition of Belles' and the reopening of the water features, River's Edge will be a hub of recreation and entertainment for children," said Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Director Vincent Martorello. "The area really connects kids with nature and encourages healthy lifestyles." 

Belles' Play Garden is part of River's Edge Phase Four. Southwest Iowa Nonprofit for Collective Impact (SINC) is conducting the fundraising and management for River's Edge Phase Four in partnership with the City of Council Bluffs. Phase Four is funded entirely by private donations, which SINC has raised. Tax increases are not part of the River's Edge funding plan. 

For more information about River's Edge Phase Four and Belles' Play Garden, visit councilbluffs-ia.gov/2435. Find Belles' Play Garden Grand Opening on Facebook @CityofCB and follow along for regular updates.

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