Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42


Colonial Heights council OKs $63K for playground
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Jun 13, 2013, 13:46

CUNNINGHAM RECREATION This rendering shows what the Flora Hill Park playground could look like.

COLONIAL HEIGHTS — Kids living near Flora Hill Park could have a new playground before summer is over after City Council approved $63,000 Tuesday night to replace the one that was torn down earlier this year.

The design has been chosen and the playground could be completed by Aug. 3, according to Director of Parks and Recreation Craig Skalak. The only thing left to do is pick the color of the playground, he said.

The playground design includes several slides, tubes for kids to crawl through, a climbing area, swings, and a toy car to bounce in. It will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is designed for ages 2-12. Of the four swings, one will be for small children and one will be for handicapped children.

The majority of the work will be done by a contractor, with city staff and volunteers helping to do the ground covering, handicap ramp and border.

The playground was built in 1995 when the park was created after an old school was torn down. The playground was showing its age, with large chunks of plastic broken off, splintering wood and the bottoms of posts rotting away. It was deemed unsafe when an inspector for the Virginia Municipal League came out earlier this year. The playground was soon partially demolished with the rest cordoned off, and there was no plan in place to build a new one.

The decision shocked many neighbors, but City Manager Thomas L. Mattis said it was not a huge surprise to the city staff. He said the city has about 10 playgrounds and many are not in much better shape than the one at Flora Hill Park.

The city’s Capital Improvement plan calls for an additional $415,000 in spending on five other playgrounds through 2017. They include Whitebank Park, Edinborough Park, Floral Avenue Park, Shepherd Stadium Playground and Lakeview Park. But that number doesn’t include other improvements planned for Parks and Recreation, which could bring the total to more than $2 million.

After demolition began at Flora Hill Park, neighbors and parents like Lia Tremblay made their case to council, saying it was more than just a place to play, but a centerpiece to their neighborhood, drawing new families and bring existing ones together.

“I understand that city governments all over the country are going to be more conservative financially than they would be, but I think it is important to point out that parks and playgrounds are not just a nice thing to have. I think they have a fiscal impact as well, and my family is an example of this. ... One of the major selling points of the home we moved into ... was that there was a playground right down the street,” she said in April.

Council agreed and promised to make it a priority.

A 5K fundraiser set for June 22 and possible grants or other contributions could help offset the cost by about $10,000, but City Council didn’t want to wait for that. Council agreed to foot the bill up front using money from this year’s surplus of about $200,000.

The Sunshine 5K Run/Walk and Kids 1 Mile Fun Run will still be held June 22 at 8:45 a.m..

Registration for the 5K begins at 7 a.m. with early packet pick-up June 21 at Shepherd Stadium from 1 to 5 p.m. The course is a mostly flat loop starting and ending at White Bank Park. Cost is $25. T-shirts are guaranteed to pre-registered runners only. Register at Colonial Heights Recreation Department’s office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 19.

The Kids 1 Mile Fun Run begins at 8 a.m. Cost is $10. Register online at https://activenet002.active.com/colonialheightsva. To register by mail, phone, or fax, call 804-520-9390.

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