Annual Festival of Lights Celebrated Each Year
Lights come on Saturday before Thanksgiving through New Year's Day

The Festival of Lights committee works with the Chillicothe Parks Department, Chillicothe Municipal Utilities, and numerous volunteers to install the lights and decorations throughout Simpson Park. For more details, visit

C-T Photo / Amanda McKay, 11/19/10

The lights will be on every night at dark through January 1.
Please send donations to Festival of Lights, P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601.
To volunteer, call Barb Burton 660-973-1273 or .

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Chillicothe Plants Tree in Clay Street Park for Arbor Day
Constitution-Tribune, September 23, 2010

In recognition of Arbor Day, proclaimed today (Thursday, Sept. 23) by Chillicothe Mayor Pro Tem Darrel Rinehart Jr., at last Thursday's city council meeting, a tree was planted today at Clay Street Park. Pictured from left to right: Josh Norris, Chillicothe Parks Department; councilman Paul Howard; city administrator, Dean Brookshier; CACE students helping with planting, John Hughes, Dakota Cranmer, Natalie Baugher and Amanda Kiser; Councilman Sid Cornell; and Councilman Tom Douglas.

C-T Photo/Amanda McKay

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May 31, 2017 - Chillicothe Street Department workers pour concrete and smooth its surface for a sidewalk extending from the southeast parking lot area to the concession stand and along the playground at Danner Park on Wednesday. The concrete sidewalk replaces an asphalt walking surface that had been deteriorating. Work on this project began last week.

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley / C-T 06/01/2017

November 16, 2013 - CAPTION BELOW: The family of Charles, Betty, Earl and Elizabeth Crain met in Simpson Park Saturday, November 16, 2013 for the donation of four benches - two near the children's play areas in Simpson Park and two in Danner Park. Mayor Chuck Haney, Councilman Tom Douglas and members of VFW Post 858 attended the dedication.

C-T Photo / Austin Buckner

CAPTION: Local dignitaries and community members gathered on the north side of Danner Memorial Park on Arbor Day, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, to commemorate the planting of five trees, courtesy of the Crime Victims' Rights Committee of Chillicothe Correctional Center.

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley / 05/19/11

A number of individuals were present for a brief ceremony led by Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney. Among those present were representatives of the Department of Corrections, Chillicothe City Council, Crime Victims' Rights Committee, Park and Tree Advisory Board, Chillicothe Parks and Recreation, and members of the public. Chillicothe is one of 77 communities in Missouri that is designated as a Tree City USA. Through donations from the Crime Victims' Rights Committee, the city's parks department was able to purchase and plant two peach trees, two flowering cherry trees, an autumn blaze maple and a Japanese maple. The newly-planted trees are part of the Crime Victims' memorial area at the park as well as other locations identified on the park's tree plan.

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Memorial Marker to be Placed at Gravesville Park
C-T 04/27/17
A plaque will be placed at Gravesville Park in southwest Chillicothe in remembrance of Elmer Perry and his wife, Annie, who gave land to the city of Chillicothe for development of a park in 1959. The marker will be provided by the Perry grandchildren - John T. Steele, Paul W. Steele and Ruth Ann Steele. The idea was presented in the Fall of 2016 to the Chillicothe Park Board which voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve the request. Ruth Ann Steele and Paul Steele, grandchildren of the Perrys, made the request to City Council members Monday evening, and the council unanimously approved the proposal. "That area is known as Gravesville Park," Ruth Ann Steele told the council. "For generations to come, it's nice to keep it there." "We're the last ones that recall how that came about and thought it would be appropriate for us to make some kind of recognition," Paul Steele added. Third Ward Councilman Tom Douglas voiced support of the signage and stated that he was one of the first children to have played ball on the park's ball field. "We played ball on that every day when we were kids," Douglas said. "This should have been done a long time ago." The sign will be a brass plaque similar to the memorial sign at Simpson Park but about half the size.

On the Edge
Monday, August 30, 2010
Chillicothe Parks and Recreation Department workers perform some edging work on a new sidewalk lining the west side of Gravesville Park this morning. They and some workers from the city's street department poured half of the planned 300-foot sidewalk before 10 a.m. The remaining portion of the sidewalk will be poured later in the week.

C-T Photo/Laura Schuler

Gravesville News' Archives
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September 6, 2017 - The last day of the swim season went to the dogs... literally. There were 46 pooches of all sizes that tested the waters during the annual doggy dip at Chilli Bay Water Park. Admission was $5 per dog with proceeds going to the Tina Mapel Memorial Dog Park.

SEASON SUMMARY: The 2017 Chilli Bay Water Park season closed out with just shy of 30,000 daily attendance visits according to Parks Director Josh Norris. This figure does not include special events or private parties. The facility averaged 370 visits per day, with the biggest day being Saturday, June 10, when attendance reached 661. There were 12 days that saw more than 500 guests. The facility was open 80 days this season and was closed four days due to inclement weather. There were 171 who attended movie night and 354 who attended a special late-night swim.

C-T Photo / Matt Shaffer / May 30, 2016


City Council Meeting Excerpt 12/09/13: Changes will be coming to Chilli Bay Water Park in 2014, with the addition of an open-flume body slide and a shark floatable in the open teen swimming area. Josh Norris, director of Parks and Recreation, also presented his plan for 2014 rates at Chilli Bay, which were approved by the council. Family season passes will increase from $170 to $195 with additional family member prices increasing from $35 to $40, individual season passes will increase from $80 to $98, punch pass prices will remain $50, daily adult admission will increase from $6 to $8, student daily admission will remain $5, pre-kindergarten daily admission will remain free and group/senior/military daily admission will increase from $3.50 to $4. After-hour pool rentals will also increase, with one-hour rentals increasing from $125 to $175 and two-hour rentals increasing from $250 to $350. Norris said that the department will look into extending Chilli Bay's operating hours into the evening. Additionally, Administrator Holland proposed that Chilli Bay offer corporate packages.

C-T Photos / Calli Price

Chilli Bay Water Park Makes Big Splash; Earns Innovative Award
By Calli Price, September 26, 2013

CAPTION: Josh Norris receiving the Innovation Award at the MML conference in Branson on 16 September on behalf of Chilli Bay.

Photo courtesy of Laura Holloway,
Communications Specialist. Missouri Municipal League

Chillicothe's Chilli Bay Water Park made a big splash in its inaugural year, not only surpassing expected revenues and attendance numbers but also earning the Missouri Municipal League Innovation Award, a statewide award that is given to innovative projects. There were 67 city applicants across the state considered for the MML award. The award is given in three categories: large city, medium city and small city. Out of 22 applicants in the medium city category, Chillicothe's Chilli Bay project received first. Director of Parks and Recreation Josh Norris accepted the award, which was presented at the September 30, 2013, city council meeting. The Chilli Bay project cost $4.2 million in addition to the operating cost of nearly $260,000. After analyzing the season's operation, it was established that the cost of operating Chilli Bay was nearly $60,000 under the initial spending projection. Attendance totals for the season also exceeded expectations. The total number of visitors, excluding the number of people who attended pool rentals, was estimated at 36,026 persons. The average daily attendance was 419 people.

Chilli Bay Water Park Opens
June 7, 2013

Chilli Bay Water Park, the $4.2 million aquatic center in Simpson Park, opened Friday afternoon, June 7, 2013. The park welcomed guests for a grand opening event on Saturday, June 8, with a public open house held Wednesday, June 12.

C-T Photo / Austin Buckner

The water park is divided into age-appropriate zones. In the zero-depth entry pool, there is a children's slide and spray feature as well as a low-angle family slide. In another pool is a log roll, a rock-climbing wall, a high diving board and a low diving board. There are also two more slides: a high-speed enclosed tubular slide, and an inner tube slide leading into the lazy river. The water park has lots of shade and some underwater bench seating. The facility has an island theme with Tiki huts, Tiki-like carvings, surf boards and palm trees. The facility is being paid for through an existing capital improvements sales tax. The last major pool renovation took place in 1993. At the water park's busiest times, there will be 21 lifeguards, 18 of whom are on deck at all times. For more photos and information, visit the city's website for all the new water park news.

Aquatic Center Sets a closing date of August 21, 2012
First Time Special Late Night Swim Offered

The Chillicothe Aquatic Center will be closing early this season in preparation for the new water park. The last day of the swimming season will be Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Parks Director Josh Norris said that this year with the new water park on the horizon, they are trying to save costs any way they can and that next year would go back to closing on Labor Day. There are several maintenance checks that need to be completed before construction is started, and timing is important. Once the pool is closed, Norris said they will begin winterizing and doing the things necessary to make sure the construction is started on time.

There will be a "Back to School Late Night Swim" this year which is something new to the Aquatic Center. The night swim will be held on Monday, August 20 from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and is targeted at middle school to high school aged teens, but is open to all. Individuals can enter the late night swim for two dollars. There will be stadium lights brought in on generators to light the swimming areas and pool deck. Norris says, "We are trying some new events and programs, also, we plan on having different offerings for next year at the new water park. Late night swimming is one of those events and this will give us a good idea of what to expect from the attendance as well as give the public one last hurrah before we close for the season."

New Pool On Its Way - See complete news' story and follow progress on the city's website...
March 20, 2012

C-T Photo / Drew Van Dyke

Contractors interested in designing a new water park for Chillicothe were at the aquatic center Tuesday to learn more about the city's plan for a major pool upgrade. Project specifics have yet to be determined; however, at this time, the city would like to see a plan that turns the pool into a theme park-like area, including such things as water slides, a lazy river, sprayground, zero-depth entry pool, water sports pool, water toys and play system, submerged seating and, possibly, diving boards. The design proposals are expected to include demolition of the existing pool facility, with the possible exception of the current showers and office area. Proposals are due by April 17. The city has allotted approximately $2 million for the project. City Administrator Ike Holland said that he would like for the project to commence with groundbreaking by Fall 2012, be finished by Spring 2013, and for the park to be open by the 2013 swimming season. Expansion of the area is possible to the north and east.

Major Renovation Planned for Pool
March 16, 2012 Amanda McKay / CT

The Chillicothe Aquatics Center currently includes a lap pool, two water slides, diving boards, a wade pool and a baby pool. The new plan would call for water slides, a lazy river, sprayground, zero-depth entry pool, water sports pool, water toys and play system, sunbathing area, sun shades, submerged seating, and possible diving boards. Preliminary work is being done for major renovations at Chillicothe's aquatic center and construction could start as early as this fall after the swimming pool closes for the season.

No definite timeline has been identified, but money is being earmarked in the city's 2012-13 budget to start on a project that is roughly estimated to cost around $2 million. The pool's last renovation was 20 years ago.

The city has already issued a request for proposals for design services at the aquatic center and all parties interested in submitting proposals must attend a walk-through of the existing facility and an informational meeting with city officials next Tuesday.

Project specifics have yet to be determined, but Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney said the city will conduct public meetings to gather input about what features are desired for the renovated water park. The advertisement for design services states that the desired features should include water slides, a lazy river, sprayground, zero-depth entry pool, water sports pool, water toys and play system, sunbathing area, sun shades, submerged seating, and possibly diving boards. The request for proposals also states that a lap pool is not wanted. Proposals are due no later than April 17.

Total cost for the project has yet to be identified; however, the city plans to set aside $365,000 in the upcoming budget, which is expected to be passed before March 30. This earmark for a pool renovation is the largest line item on the proposed expenditures for the city's capital improvement sales tax.

Learning to Float

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Young swimmers enjoy learning how to float during swimming lessons at the Chillicothe Aquatic Center. Lessons for this session began on Tuesday and will continue through next week. Two more sessions will be held this summer: from July 5 through July 16, and from July 26 through Aug. 6.

Cooling Off on a Hot Day
Constitution-Tribune, Friday, July 23, 2010

C-T Photo/ Laura Schuler

Just minutes after the Chillicothe Aquatic Center opened this morning, children cool off in the umbrella fountain at the pool. The intense heat wave has caused an increase in the number of people using the facility. Officials say 357 people were there yesterday and just as many were expected today.

Preparing for the Season
Constitution-Tribune, Tuesday, April 13, 2010

C-T Photo/ Laura Schuler

With the opening of the Chillicothe Aquatic Center now weeks away, Pam Thieme, pool manager, works today on cleaning debris from the pool�s gutters. Before the pool opens, she says, the bath house will be repainted and the slides will be waxed. The pool will be filled three weeks prior to the pool's opening and lifeguards are scheduled to be trained the week before the pool opens on Memorial Day.


Aquatic Center News' Archives
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June 3, 2015 
Catherine Stortz Ripley

A long-range plan for Chillicothe's parks has been developed to help guide future maintenance and development of the city's parks system. Josh Norris, parks and recreation director, along with Park Board members, developed a plan that extends 10 years for the city's six parks: Simpson, Danner, Shaffer, Gravesville, Clay Street and Mills. The plan outlines specific projects for each park, estimated completion dates and approximate costs. Norris was unaware of any other long-range plan that had already existed for the parks. The plan's project list was generated through several sources, including public surveys as well as from comments made to members of the board. The plan is a fluid document and projects have already been adjusted since it was drafted. "It's a guideline for us to follow to plan for the future of our parks, but some things will change," Norris said. The parks department received approximately 300 completed surveys that had been distributed at Danner Park, Simpson Park, Chilli Bay Water Park, and during a Mudcats baseball game at Shaffer Park. Participants were asked several questions, including how they would rate the parks, the playgrounds, walking trails and bathrooms, and suggest what they'd like to see added. In drafting the plan, Norris said projects were divided into needs and wants. The needs were mostly maintenance-related issues with an emphasis put on doing projects correctly the first time to prevent future problems. Among projects considered for Simpson Park is the relocation of the east playground near the Washington Street entrance to avoid flooding issues. The playground sits low compared to nearby areas and, during heavy rains, water pools in areas and runs through the playground. New mulch was added in an effort to keep the playground drier and a couple more loads of mulch will soon be added. However, problems still occur because of water runoff. Relocating the playground to another area within the park is slated for 2017-18; however, it is possible that project could take place sooner.


Norris Named as Parks Director
02 15 11

The Chillicothe City Council appointed Josh Norris as Parks and Recreation Director, effective immediately, during last night's executive session following the council meeting. Council members voted unanimously.

Noris has been a full-time employee of the City of Chillicothe since July 2008 in the Parks and Recreation Department. He was a seasonal employee prior to this. In Nov. 2010, Norris was appointed Interim Parks Director and had served as Assistant Parks Director. Noris is a lifelong resident of Chillicothe and is a graduate of CHS. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Northwest Missouri State University with a minor in coaching. In addition to his experience with the Parks Department, Norris has previously been an assistant coach for the CHS football team.

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Ballpark Upgrade
New bullpens for start of season
By Catherine Stortz Ripley, C-T 03/24/2017

The bullpens of June Shaffer Memorial Park are being overhauled and should be finished by Monday, March 27, 2017, in time for Chillicothe High School's home opener against Macon. Synthetic turf was added this week to both the home and visiting bullpens and will create a near all-weather surface for players, according to Josh Norris, director of Chillicothe Parks and Recreation. The green turf was removed from the Oak Grove High School football field and given to the city by the company that is installing new turf at Oak Grove. In addition to the turf added for the bullpens, new gold/dirtcolored synthetic turf was added to the home plate area at Shaffer Park.

C-T Photos / Catherine Stortz Ripley

The old pitching mounds in the bullpens were torn out as well as the old fencing. New fencing has been installed and new pitching mounds were to be added late this week. "We redid the whole bullpen area," Norris said. "Weather conditions for the last month allowed us to get quite a bit done."

C-T Photos / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Improvements to the ballpark were made through a cooperative effort between the city and Grand River Entertainment, operator of the Chillicothe Mudcats, a collegiate level baseball team which is part of the MINK League (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas). Making the improvements was a priority of GRE, largely because Chillicothe will host the All-Star MINK League game in July, at which time professional baseball scouts will be in attendance.


C-T Photo/Laura Schuler 05/24/10

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June 5, 2018 - A community based organization - Friends of Chillicothe Parks, Inc. - has formed to support the efforts of the Chillicothe Parks Department to maintain, enhance and promote the city parks' system. Organizing members have worked closely with Josh Norris, Chillicothe Parks and Recreation director, to raise awareness within the community of the opportunity to get involved and assist with the mission of the parks department. The playground renovation project - which also would include relocating the younger children's playground area further north and away from the highway - is estimated to cost $300,000. The Friends of Chillicothe Parks, Inc., is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and establishes new avenues for funding and the ability to pursue grants. "Municipal funds are finite," said Ryan Horsman, Friends of Chillicothe Parks, Inc., chairman. "The Chillicothe parks system is remarkable, but... it needs a private-public partnership to make sure that our park system stays in good condition." He stated that the organization's interest is to support all parks, but its first priority is to rehabilitate the Simpson Park playground. "Simpson Park is the crown jewel," Horsman said. "We see people stop there from all over the place. It's a favorite spot in town, but when we get a lot of rain, it's not usable for several days." Some improvements already have been made at the Simpson Park playground. An inclusive spinner, similar to a merry-go-round, was recently installed for children of all ages and abilities. The addition was made possible by a $5,000 grant through the Rotary Club. Other new additions made possible through the grant were an inclusive swing (with a latch over the top) and a generation swing which has a toddler seat on one end and an adult seat on the other. Local Rotarians installed the new playground equipment.

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C-T Photo 06/05/18 Catherine Stortz Ripley

June 6, 2017 - Around 70 volunteers participated in the ONE PROJECT: Project Parks Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Simpson Park. Much was accomplished according to Parks Director Josh Norris. Volunteers painted and stained shelter houses, painted walking bridges, placed new benches throughout the park and spread playground mulch. "We want to thank all those that took time out of their Saturday to help complete some of these much needed projects," Norris said. "We also want to thank the Ministerial Alliance as well as the Chillicothe Park Board for helping promote this community work day and to Boy Scout Pack 120 for cooking lunch." 

The Chillicothe Parks Department and Chillicothe Park Board, along with the Chillicothe Ministerial Alliance, hosted the community-wide work day. Start time was 8 a.m. and concluded with a hot dog lunch put on by the Ministerial Alliance at noon. Volunteers gathered at the Rotary Shelter House in the center of the park, near the tennis courts. Any individual or group who would like to volunteer time within the Chillicothe parks system should contact the parks and recreation department at 660 646 4424.

Simpson Park Wood Carvings
By Catherine Stortz Ripley (CT)
Updated June 8, 2015

C-T Photos / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Local woodcarver Steve Holt's second tree carving in Simpson Park is that of an eight-foot lion carved into the stump of a swamp white oak tree. The stump measures 112 inches in circumference. Holt uses an Austrian timber oil to preserve the wood and give it an auburn color. A base is carved at the bottom of the stump so that the carving may be relocated at a later date, if needed. The lion carving was inspired by the lion head drinking fountain, a popular fixture of the children's playground since 1972. The carving is being made possible by a private donation. The lion is among three carvings planned for this year. Also pictured above is the carving of two bear cubs climbing a tree - the third completed woodcarving - in an area near the lion carving. An eagle carving is planned for the center of the circle drive. Holt completed the park's first carving last year. It was that of a nine-foot bear named "Livingston," located along the walking trail just east of the new carving and the children's playground.

Tree City USA
Photos: Eric Turner - May 19, 2015
Josh Norris, Chillicothe Parks & Recreation Director, shows the Pack 120 Den 2 Webelos Cub Scouts the proper way to care for, mulch & water trees as part of their conservation tree project and Tree City USA parks program.

The Tree City USA program is a national program that provides the framework for community forestry management for cities and towns across America. Communities achieve Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

Family Honors Parents with Gift to City Parks
Nov. 19, 2013

C-T Photo / Austin Buckner

CAPTION: Betty and Charles Crain (seated, front row) were joined by seven of the couples nine children during the dedication ceremony Saturday morning in Simpson Park.

Charles Crain, 95, and his wife Betty, 88, were recently honored by their children with a donation of four benches to the city of Chillicothe, two of each at Simpson and Danner parks. A dedication ceremony took place Saturday morning in Simpson Park. The couple are life-long residents of Livingston County, and Charles is a World War II veteran, having served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. In addition to Charles and Betty, the ceremony also honored the late Earl and Elizabeth Crain, brother and sister-in-law of Charles.

The benches will have small plaques indicating their names. Accepting the $5,000 donation on behalf of the city was Mayor Chuck Haney.

On hand for the event were seven of the couple's nine children, Councilman Tom Douglas, local veterans and a host of other family and friends. The ceremony occurred one day prior to Charles's 96th birthday. The couple thanked everyone for the recognition. "This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for us," Charles said. A small reception followed the event at Indian Hills Retirement Village where Betty and Charles currently reside.

C-T Photo / Austin Buckner

CAPTION: The family of Charles, Betty, Earl and Elizabeth Crain met in Simpson Park Saturday, November 16, 2013 for the donation of four benches - two near the children's play areas in Simpson Park and two in Danner Park. Mayor Chuck Haney, Councilman Tom Douglas and members of VFW Post 858 attended the dedication.

The Hunt is On!

An annual Easter egg hunt is held in April each year in Simpson Park as young children scour the grounds for as many as 4,000 Easter eggs - 50 containing $1 coins, and one in each age group, a grand prize ticket. The Easter egg hunt is sponsored annually by the Chillicothe Parks and Recreation and Grand River Area Family YMCA and lasts only minutes as hordes of eager children race through looking for the brightly colored plastic shells.

C-T Photo / Drew Van Dyke
CT 04 11 11

Josh Norris, Director of Parks and Recreation
1503 Walnut Street, Chillicothe, MO 64601

Office Phone: 660-646-4424
Office Fax: 660-646-2107
Chilli Bay Water Park: 660-646-6107


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