The addition to Johnson City’s park facilities has proved largely popular after a month since its grand opening on April 4.
Rotary Park’s 22,000-square-foot Boundless Playground has already received an award from the Tennessee Development District Association for being a quality of life improvement. The playground features several swing sets, synthetic turf, a large wheelchair accessible jungle gym, a carousel, tire swing and a splash pad, which will open for the summer on Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The park is hugely popular. We get a lot of classes from schools and it's basically packed from opening at 9 a.m. onward. After-school people come here for parties, picnics and even club meetings,” Gary Grey, Johnson City Parks and Recreation park monitor, said.
Monday, among the crowd of parents and children, Fairmont Elementary School Principal Carol McGill hosted the first field trip to the park for her third- and fourth-graders.
McGill originally decided to bring her kids to the new park due to the school’s proximity to Rotary Park and the fact the playground is inclusive and accessible. After having a busload of children play throughout the morning, McGill only had praises for the park.
“It’s fabulous and all the new things are wonderful. It’s really, really good and well planned out,” McGill said. “And this has been great (for disabled children) because they can get to everything.”
Before the Boundless Playground was added, Warriors’ Path State Park in Kingsport was the only area park with disability access.
“Compared to Warriors’, this park is awesome. It has the best of both worlds with the playground and natural woods. It’s got a lot of nature here, but with Warriors’ you are right across the street with no barrier to a lake and that’s a little scary to me,” McGill said.
“I prefer this one. It’s closer and the lake scares me. But this is really safe and really well planned out.”
The principal has already made plans to continue to bring children to the park. According to her, summer school groups will have trips to the park through June and Educare, the before and after-school program, will visit the park every Friday.
“The next group we bring, we are going to do a scavenger hunt with the 8-10 different animals that can be found around the park. You can do all sorts of things (for teaching the kids) with all these woods here. We can do things with the leaves, tree types and even neat science projects.”
Educators aren’t the only ones utilizing the park, however. It was filled with kids and parents, picnic-goers and birthday party guests on Monday.
“My kids love the park and I think it's awesome. I like that there’s only one entrance and one exit, I love the fences and I love the turf. It’s just great for all ages and all abilities,” mother Connie Simpson said.
After traveling from Greeneville with her kids on her day off, the mother of a 4- and 7-year old was pleasantly surprised with the safety and organization of the park.
“I would have a high gauge for knowing if it's safe or not because I'm a little, nervous mom,” Simpson said. “However, the park is nicely spread out, kids aren’t running over each other and I’ve just been very pleasantly surprised.”
Although the park’s equipment is labelled with the suggested age range to ensure children's safety, mom Katherine Smith had mixed feelings about the park. As the mother of a 21-month-old baby and a 12 year old, nothing escaped her watchful eye.
“We live close to Winged Deer Park and usually go there, but I feel that this one is a little more interactive,” Smith said. “I think it stimulates the imagination a little bit more with the woodland theme. And it has a little bit more shade, which is a huge deal for me.”
Despite her positive view of the playground, she took an issue with some of the park’s older visitors.
“My only issue with the park so far has been the kids that are way too old to be here,” Smith said. “A large group of older kids got here right when we did and they were rocking some of the equipment really hard with little kids in it, so I had to use my mom voice today. The staff is usually pretty good about monitoring the park, but I didn’t see anyone intervene.”
With largely positive reviews of the park and the upcoming opening of the splash pad, the park’s monitor staff can only expect more and more visitors from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. throughout the summer.