PermaTrak Boardwalk and Observation Deck at Mercy Park – Joplin, MO

Posted: August 9, 2017

PermaTrak Boardwalk and Observation Deck at Mercy Park – Joplin, MO


We are excited to announce that Joplin’s lush green Mercy Park includes a 112 ft. long PermaTrak concrete boardwalk and observation deck as one of its amenities. The trapezoidal boardwalk takes park-goers up close to the park’s lake and over the water, encouraging fishing, bird watching, and general R&R. This passive park, built as a tranquil oasis for residents, stands in place of the previous Mercy Hospital site after it was tragically destroyed in a tornado six years ago.

Rebuilding Joplin after a natural disaster

On May 22, 2011, a catastrophic EF-5 tornado ripped through the city of Joplin causing over a hundred casualties and thousands of injuries. The widespread devastation spanned miles of homes, businesses and infrastructure and the wreckage included Joplin’s Mercy Hospital.

According to Felipe DeNarvaez, Landscape Architect at SWT Design, when Joplin began picking up the pieces to rebuild the city, Deloitte was managing the relief funds for Joplin. “We started working with Deloitte on their capital improvements plan to brainstorm how they were going to allocate the funds,” he says. Mercy Health then donated the land to the City of Joplin.

One vital question was, what will the City do with the 14-acre Mercy Hospital site that was entirely wiped out by the tornado?

Felipe DeNarvaez

“The entire Mercy Park overhaul was one of the early action projects we had taken on. We didn’t want a typical park that encouraged hustle, bustle, and activity. We wanted to make this space entirely passive – no baseball fields, soccer fields, playgrounds – none of that. It’s a new lake with a PermaTrak concrete boardwalk, three walking trails, and 250 new trees to replace those knocked out by the tornado,” DeNarvaez explains. 

The park also includes restrooms, a picnic pavilion and a butterfly mural and Mercy Chapel and Gardens – a memorial to those who those who lost their lives in the tornado.  

A custom boardwalk solution to take folks over the water
Mercy Park’s new lake was an integral feature of the park. “It was an ask from the community to include a lake,” DeNarvaez says. “In past projects, we have found that people really enjoy being able to interact with the water. That’s when we decided to have the boardwalk jut out over the lake.” 

The man-made lake added a layer of difficulty to the project. “This was an old mining site. The land underneath the lake is like Swiss cheese, and here we are proposing to build a lake,” DeNarvaez laughs. The lake includes a geosynthetic membrane - a high-density liner to strengthen, seal, and ensure that the lake would never leak.

“For the lakeside boardwalk, we needed longevity and a solution that was less maintenance than a typical wooden boardwalk. That’s when I reached out to Jason and said that we need something tough as nails.” One unique challenge for the boardwalk was coming up with a solution for the footings to penetrate the lake’s liner. “We worked with PermaTrak a lot on coordinating the footings, which brought a level of difficulty and critical thinking. Ultimately, we worked with Jason and our structural engineer to design the footing to have a custom boot for all of the footings to pierce the liner.”


DeNarvaez praises PermaTrak for accommodating Mercy Park boardwalk’s custom angular design. In planning stages, the portions of the boardwalk that connected to the trails on either end were designed to be 8 ft. wide and the observation deck portion sitting over the water was to be 10 ft. wide.

I thought we were going to get a little bit of pushback from PermaTrak – that our dimensions were off and that it just wouldn’t work to have two different widths. I appreciated that PermaTrak worked to make their system work with our desired design specifications. This demonstrated great collaboration to figure out how to achieve these widths and angles,” DeNarvaez says. “The streamlining of the design and engineering process was impressive. We had to go from hand sketches on a napkin to bid documents in 2-3 months. Coordinating with products can be a huge hassle. It’s never been that way with PermaTrak. This was a collaborative and streamlined process from design to construction

Mercy Park – a relaxing respite for Joplin
Though it has been over six years since the tornado devastated large pockets of Joplin, the rebuilding process is still ongoing. Nearby neighborhoods and homes are still being restored and new restaurants are popping up in the area. But Joplin’s Mercy Park is unique, as it’s strictly intended for rejuvenation. 


“We were lucky enough to provide residents with this brand new beautiful park. This is one amenity in the area that’s passive. It’s a park – it’s healing; the birds, the trees, the water, two water fountains. This park is able to provide a space for residents to heal,” DeNarvaez explains. “It’s an amazing amenity and I can tell you, people could not get to the ribbon cutting ceremony (in summer, 2016) fast enough. People are overjoyed to be able to take advantage of the walking trails, to hear the birds sing and to take their kids out fishing.”

According to DeNarvaez, the PermaTrak boardwalk is a hit with the community. “People love it! I’ve seen families standing on it peering over the water, reeling in crappie and bass. Talking with people out there – it’s been nothing but excitement and absolute praise,” he adds.

Joplin Mayor, Mike Seibert shares that sentiment: “This is just a continuation of progress that hopefully citizens are seeing and support- and realize that we really are a community that is known not for our disaster but for our recovery,” says Seibert. 

Photo credit: Felipe DeNarvaez headshot - SWT Design

Topics: Boardwalk Design