The Carver Park Playground finally opened to the public after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, more than a year after its scheduled completion date due to contractor issues.
More than a dozen children in the Carver Recreation After School program were the first to test out the state-of-the-art playground equipment, manufactured by North Carolina-based Playworld Preferred.
The company named the playground model “Branch Out,” and Carver is the first location in Tennessee to have it, a city press release said. The playground’s design was inspired by nature, and its main structure is shaped like extended tree branches connected to climbing ropes.
The playground has swings, three unique slides, rock-climbing features, an elevated narrow crossing and additional climbing and stepping features.
"This is designed to be our most challenging playground," said Sam Miller, 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."
Before enjoying a cookout with the children in a nearby pavilion, Miller also joined in on the fun by testing out the playground’s capabilities.
The playground includes designated areas for ages 2-5 and 5-12, and features several handicapped-accessible components. The city’s Parks Services Division also landscaped the area surrounding the playground, installing new picnic tables, benches and waste containers.
"In 2012, we began the effort to improve our playgrounds, and the city has allotted us funds to accomplish that goal," Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis said. "These are state-of-the-art play structures with a synthetic surface beneath. Kids from around our area are going to enjoy these amenities for a long, long time."
Carver Park supervisor Herb Greenlee said the playground will improve quality of life and increase the number of kids visiting the recreation center.
Last week, the state awarded the city $200,000 to build a splash pad close to where the playground is located. That project is expected to be completed in two years.
The playground was scheduled to be completed 45 days after the city awarded a $124,997 contract to First Place Finish-Inc. to install the playground in March 2017.
Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said First Place Finish CEO Laurel Patrick cited weather and other factors as reasons why the project was not completed within the contractual timeframe.
In April 2018, city leaders became frustrated with First Place Finish Inc.’s work after an inspection that found 21 “defective items” with the playground.
Among those items were exposed anchors at the bottom of steel cables, loose turf grass that created trip hazards, uneven elevation around play structures, exposed nails and screws and non-compliant fall zones around play areas.
At the time, City Manager Pete Peterson said the city had not paid First Place Finish for any of the work completed, and he expected the matter to end up in court.
In May, city commissioners voted to approve a $89,931 contract with another company, Playcore Wisconsin, to fix the deficiencies. Ellis said the playground has since been inspected and approved by Playground Guardian, which specializes in onsite safety inspections.
A June 6 letter, written by Patrick’s attorney, criticized the city for withholding the entire payment for the work completed and threatened legal action.
“This letter will also serve as a formal notice that my client intends to pursue all legal remedies available to it under (state law), including the recovery of attorney’s fees and interest, unless payment is made within 10 days of the receipt hereof,” the letter stated.