HAMLET — The playground at Memorial Park recently received renovations in the form of newer — and safer — equipment, thanks in part to a grant from The Cole Foundation, — said City Manager Marcus Abernethy.
“We’ve got a little more work to do,” he said. “We’ve got this old water fountain that’s going to be removed in the next few days. And this old swing set, we’re going to have to move it because of the amount of safety surfacing that it now requires. It would be so expensive to cover that, so we’re going to decommission that.”
Abernethy explained that safety surfacing is the material that goes underneath playground equipment to help prevent injuries from falls.
“This whole project was aimed at trying to replace a lot of this old playground equipment with new equipment that meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards,” he continued.
Mayor Bill Bayless said the new equipment is superior in a number of ways.
“We had a slide over here,” he said, indicating the spot it once occupied. “But every time a kid slid down it he’d get burnt.”
Bayless had earlier remarked about the extreme heat of the day.
“So what we had installed was a slide structure that you see before you, and a climbing structure as well as this monorail structure with the monkey bars attached to it,” Abernethy said.
The new, twin slides attached to the structure are plastic and blue — and, both officials agreed, far less likely to get scorching hot the way their metal predecessor did.
“And we had a new playground border installed as well as the safety surfacing,” said Abernethy. “The safety surfacing is made out of rubber mulch, which is much more expensive than engineered wood fiber, but will hold up so much longer than mulch will. ‘Engineered wood fiber’ is basically just a term for fancy mulch which will deteriorate over a four- to five-year period, but in 20 years, the rubber mulch will still be there.”
Bayless said City Councilman David Lindsey was behind the Cole Foundation grant.
“That was his doing,” Bayless explained. “He got with them and he put in an application.”
“This was something we wanted to do and were going to do whether we got grant funding or not,” Abernethy said. “But the Cole Foundation stepped up and supported us with a grant to reimburse for half of the project cost. It was a nice surprise, and it enabled us to really do more than what we could have done on our own.”
Lindsey told the Daily Journal that the playground upgrades are important for revitalizing the city.
“It’s just a wonderful thing that the Cole has helped us out with this,” he said. “It’s a good project for Hamlet and the kids, for the town and the whole area that use it. We’re happy that they’re able to help us.”
Parks and Recreation Director Maurice McLaurin said the busiest times for kids on the new playground are late afternoons and during practice time for other sports in the gym or on the field.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “I see a variety of kids playing on it as we come to practice — some of the kids who are supposed to be out practicing are out here playing. There might not be many kids out this time of day (around 2:30 p.m.) but later on, they’ll be here.”
“We got a whole lot of bang for our buck, because it’s got that monorail on it, it’s got slides on both sides,” Bayless said. “It’s got those little gadgets on the side there that little kids can turn. Then on the back side you’ve actually got climbing walls. There are several different places around that they can climb. So we got a lot of bang for the buck. What we had before was not modern, and what we have now is. It was made with safety in mind.”
Abernethy said that the equipment that was replaced was installed sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
“The installations finished up in July and we ran into a little bit of an issue with the border,” he continued. “We wanted to use the border that was already here to try and save money, but the original border was not quite big enough for the area it needed, so we ordered a new border and it took about three weeks from the time we ordered it before it got here.”
The next park renovation project will be at the W.D. James Park, with funding from the Richmond Community Foundation.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.