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From Goatheads to Splash Pads at Comba Park

This park was made for playin'


Dr. Trudy Comba will never forget her 80th birthday, when the city of Boise formally opened Comba Park in West Boise, Aug. 8.

The late morning opening drew many of Comba's closest friends and colleagues, as well as crowds from neighborhoods around Five Mile and Ustick roads.

The playground filled with kids, laughing and running behind a podium where Mayor Dave Bieter declared Aug. 8 to be Dr. Trudy Comba Day. The mayor, singing into the microphone, led the crowd in "Happy Birthday."

Comba donated the parcel of land to the city in 2000, after the early child development center she and her husband started in 1980 burned down. Comba's daughter, Kathryn Metcalfe, lives in New York but has been instrumental in turning the lot into the park that bears her mother's name.

"I think of 2995 Five Mile Road as a field of dreams," Metcalfe said. "I remember when mom planted the trees before A Small World Center for Creativity opened. They were $10 a piece. We dug the holes and planted them."

Doug Holloway, director of the Boise Parks and Recreation Department, said the city worked on the park for four years. Where 3.2 acres of grass, play equipment and a splash park is today was once nothing but weeds.

"There were more goatheads in this park than all of Boise, including the Foothills," Holloway joked. Now, he calls it "one of the most unique parks we have in our system."

Potable water flows through the splash pad, which has a giant, inlaid keyboard that plays different tones when the keys are stepped on. The water is then UV-treated and used to irrigate the rest of the lawn.

"It's the first of its kind in Idaho," Holloway said. "The [Department of Environmental Quality] actually had a hard time permitting it because they'd never seen anything like it before. Now, we would like to do more of them around the city."

The playground is also nontraditional, trading monkey bars and slides for a multi-story merry-go-round webbed with rope, and three hexagonal domes with climbing holds. Instead of bark, soft turf covers the ground.

A group of 20 kids holding homemade "Happy Birthday Dr. Trudy" signs handed Comba a dozen colorful balloons. The kids live in the North Pointe apartment complex, which houses mostly refugees. Boise Parks and Rec offers the kids free afterschool and summer activities.

Still to come, two community gardens will be built on-site, giving Boise Urban Garden School a place to grow.

"Thank God, I'm still around to see this," Comba said.