Squeals of laughter and excitement filled the air Friday at Swift Prepared Foods Park as children played for the first time at the city’s new state-of-the-art playground.
The community and civic leaders came together for a day of fun to celebrate the opening of the nearly $750,000 playground at the former West Side Park.
Booneville Parks and Recreation Director Jon Hill said the long-awaited project simply could not have happened without a community effort that brought people and businesses together to create a facility the entire community can be proud of.
“We could not have done this without the whole community. This has been a community project with everyone pulling together,” said Hill.
Mayor Chris Lindley said the dream of a new Kids Town to replace the original Kids Town playground built by the community in 1997 began four years ago. He said as he campaigned for mayor at the time numerous people asked about the future of the wooden playground which had degraded over time.
“Our beloved Kids Town, which we all came together to build, had to be replaced. Many memories were made in the old Kids Town and we’re going to cherish those memories but there’s going to be new memories made in this new kids town,” he said.
The mayor said it took the support and work of numerous people and businesses to make it happen. At the forefront was Swift Prepared Foods, formerly known as Plumrose, which donated $400,000 to the project.
“Their company has always been committed to our community,” said the mayor.
The Board of Aldermen voted to use $200,000 of funds generated by the city’s tourism tax and $175,000 from the city general fund to cover the remaining costs of the playground. Swift also provided funds for construction of one of the three pavilions. Langston and Lott law firm funded a second pavilion, replacing the one they originally provided for the original Kids Town and Traci and Joey Langston personally funded the construction of the third pavilion. Kimes and Stone Construction and Eubank Construction volunteered time and equipment to reroute utilities for the project.
The mayor also praised the numerous city employees who worked on the project including those in the gas department led by Curtis Featherston, the water department led by Paul Carpenter, the street department led by James Olive and the public property department led by Tom Sanders and Gary Coats.
Lindley said at the helm of it all was park director Hill who helped guide the project through numerous challenges to its completion.
“Jon Hill has worked many, many, many hours on this project. Through his tireless endeavors Jon Hill has made this happen,” said the mayor.
The new playground is not only fun and attractive, noted the mayor, it was designed in a thoughtful way.
Will McNear with Bliss Products, who designed the play surface and equipment, said the site was carefully designed using evidence-based principles and will serve as a national demonstration site in areas of inclusive play, youth physical activity and nature activity.
The playground includes three main play areas with modern, safe, state-of-the-art equipment on a poured-in-place rubberized surface. The open concept design allows parents to easily see their children as they play and includes wheelchair-accessible equipment and inclusive play areas to ensure all children are able to play.