The 6-year-old was too busy testing the new $70,000 playground during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included city commissioners and parks and recreation officials.
But Molly’s excitement and smile exhibited the investment was already beginning to pay off.
Before Molly’s grandmother, Denee Mattioli could ask, “Is this better than the old (playground)?” the little girl nodded her head and scaled up the jungle gym.
Molly is a regular at the recreation area during the summer months when she stays with her grandmother while her mother and father work. Mattioli’s husband is a outfielder on the Tri-Cities Senior Softball team, which practices on the Winged Deer Park fields.
“Much better (than the old 20-year-old playground),” said Mattioli, who lives in Elizabethton. “This is so nice to have. I mean it’s state-of-the-art, and it’s not metal so it doesn’t get so hot.”
The playground is the second one in Johnson City to have artificial turf and the only one with a canopy above it.
The canopy was developed not just to block sunlight while keeping the surfaces cool, but to protect foul balls from the adjacent ball fields from hitting children while they play.
Winged Deer Park’s remodeled playground is the third in a series of improvements the city’s Parks and Recreation have planned.
“In the next year, we have two more playgrounds coming. The one at the Rotary (Park), which will be a boundless playground,” said Roger Blakeley, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.
A boundless playground means the area is accessible for everyone, including those in wheelchairs.
“We’re also looking at Carver (Recreation Center) to get a brand new playground. Their playground is about 20 years old (too). We will replace that and it will have the same kind of surfacing that we have here,” Blakeley said. “When we have that, we will have five new playgrounds and a splash pad within a three year period.”
Blakeley said the overall goal is to make the city’s infrastructure better.
Johnson City Commissioner Jenny Brock said city taxpayers are the ones to thank for Winged Deer’s new playground, but that isn’t always the case when it comes to improving the recreational areas.
“But we also have private donations. Last year (during) the replacement of the playground at Kiwanis Park, there was a $15,000 donation from the Turkey Trot that went into that playground,” Brock said. “We have a replacement down at the lakefront here at Winged Deer Park, and we have a private donation going to that. So that’s the kind of the public/private initiatives that help improve the city.”
A $250,000 grant from the state will go toward creating the Rotary Park’s boundless playground.
“I’m really impressed with our parks system here,” Mattioli said. “It’s just nice to be a part of a community that does this for its citizens.”
To donate to the Parks and Recreation Foundation, which is tax-exempt nonprofit organization, Blakeley said send a check to: 2407 Stewart Street, Johnson City, TN 37601 or call him at 423-283-5829.
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