KIRKUK, Iraq - President Herbert Hoover once said, "Children are our most valuable resource."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with city officials here to cultivate that valuable resource through the construction of six new city parks. The parks are a part of the Kirkuk Reconciliation Initiative and are situated and designed to provide a safe, clean recreational area for Kirkuk's more than 40,000 residents.
The Gulf Region District's Kirkuk Resident Office is managing the $850,000 project.
Army Lt. Col. Edgar Montalvo, an engineer at the office, said the key to the project has been the cooperation with the local government.
"The governor of Kirkuk was extremely pleased with the project," Montalvo said. "This project allows the city to look to the future with optimism and helps provide the people of Kirkuk, from all ethnic groups, a place to enjoy their common heritage and culture in a peaceful setting while providing recreational opportunity for children and families."
The Mussalah, Askary and Ulama'a parks are nearing completion, and three more parks are in the planning stages.
A professional designer has been working with the contractor to assist with the design of the parks. All of the sites are located in urban neighborhoods and include a grass soccer field, a playground for small children and a picnic area with benches.
The parks will have prefabricated buildings to house a guard shack, concession stand and utility room. Wells were dug and an underground sprinkler system is being installed at each park to maintain grassy areas.
All of the two-acre parks are enclosed by an eight-foot wall and area lighting provides a safe and secure area for children and families during the evening hours. A back-up generator will provide electricity to the parks during electrical grid power interruptions.
The Iraqi-owned Al Mashariq Company is the general contractor for the park projects, which has employed at least 30 local Iraqis.
The parks are being funded through the U.S. State Department's Economic Support Fund.
The Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, has completed thousands of reconstruction projects in partnership with the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Since 2004, GRD has completed 5,257 projects throughout Iraq valued at more than $8.9 billion, and has 361 projects ongoing.