About 100 children stood behind a yellow ribbon near Carver Recreation Center’s new playground last week, shifting their weight from side to side and shielding their eyes from the sun until the ceremonious barrier was cut and they finally were allowed to sprint onto the colorful equipment.
Johnson City officials declared the state-of-the-art structure at 322 W. Watauga Ave. open on Aug. 29, bringing to life a long-awaited outdoor amenity for the historic community-service facility.
Officials also learned a few days ahead of the ribbon cutting that Johnson City has been awarded about $200,000 from the state’s Local Park and Recreation Fund, which will help pay for a new splash pad at Carver and compliment its new playground.
While the new playground was getting a good going over, officials, guests, attendees and kids ate hot dogs and various other treats while meeting, greeting, laughing and cooling off inside a nearby pavilion.
“A playground is a vital item,” said Herb Greenlee, center supervisor. “It improves the quality of life. If you’re old enough to walk, it will grab your attention. This is going to increase the number of kids coming to our center, and add to our overall amenities.
“Parents working in our garden or walking will be able to watch their children. It will also increase the number of children coming here from local schools and bring more children from Head Start, Dawn of Hope’s Children and Youth Project, as well as different groups in the community.”
Greenlee said the splash pad will be constructed on a flat area west of the center close to West Market Street and that additional parking to accommodate crowds is a possibility.
Johnson City Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis said the playground’s completion is a benchmark within the city’s long-range plan.
“In 2012, we began the effort to improve our playgrounds, and the city has allotted us funds to accomplish that goal,” Ellis said. “These are state-of-the-art play structures with a synthetic surface beneath. Kids from around this area are going to get to enjoy these amenities for a long, long time.”
Ellis said playground regulations and testing are very stringent. The new playground has been inspected and approved by Playground Guardian, which specializes in municipal and school monitoring and on-site safety inspections.
North Carolina-based Playworld Preferred manufactured the equipment. The company named this new model type “Branch Out,” and Carver is the first location in Tennessee to have it.
The playground includes designated areas for ages 2-5 and 5-12, and features several handicapped accessible components.
“This is designed to be our most challenging playground,” said Sam Miller, JC Parks Recreation Services manager. “It’s meant to encourage imaginative play – meaning there is no one way to utilize its features. It is also physically challenging, requiring balance and core strength.”
The playground’s design was inspired by nature, and its main structure is shaped like extended tree branches on which climbing ropes are connected. Swings, three slides, rock-climbing features, an elevated, narrow crossing and additional climbing and stepping features are included.
Park Services also installed landscaping around the new playground. New picnic tables, benches and waste containers also have been installed.
The playground opening coincides with the well-recognized community center’s 60th anniversary of service to the community, and it will host to a weeklong series of anniversary events Sept. 16-22.
Established in 1958, Carver is a 6-acre facility at 322 W. Watauga Ave. The center offers a full-size indoor gymnasium, weight room, library, teen room, community room, arts and crafts area, kitchen and meeting space. Carver also provides the community with well-respected after-school programming, fitness trail, garden, outdoor pavilion, multi-use courts and more.