Children in the city of Loudon now have the opportunity to utilize new playground equipment recently installed in Legion and Liberty parks.
Local officials came together Monday to celebrate the additions with ribbon cutting ceremonies, effectively ending a process that Loudon Parks and Recreation Department Director Mark Harrell said was roughly two years in the making.
“It’s just something that you can’t take out,” Harrell said. “Playgrounds aren’t as active as they used to be. As you’ll see in the future we’re adding some exercise equipment to the list of things that we’re doing, and both of these companies that are doing playground equipment said that they are probably putting in more exercise equipment now than they are playground equipment. Still, there are kids that are active and want to get out and play. Both sets of playground are what we call active playgrounds, there’s not a lot of places to sit. So when kids go, they have to walk to the playground.
“It’s not convenient to a parking space,” he added. “They have to walk a little bit to get there, and then they’re (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. They’re not like Lenoir City’s where it’s full ADA compliant, but they are accessible. When you get there you pretty much have to exercise.”
Legion and Liberty park playgrounds are relocated slightly from where the older equipment still stands. Relocation was needed to better suit different age demographics, as a survey conducted by the city showed Legion Park needed ages 2-10, whereas Liberty Park was for ages 8-15, Harrell said.
“Legion was relocated because it was built near the skate park and, again, we realized that the amount of use of the skate park — or the people that used skate parks were averaged 15 years old,” Harrell said. “We needed a playground for the 2- to 10-year-old, and it just doesn’t mix when you have those type of ages together and the language barriers and things like that. So we decided to separate them, separate them by about 350 feet.
“Liberty (Park) was economics,” he added. “The old playground was put on probably about a 40 percent slope and when it rained it washed the mulch real bad and created a huge problem for maintenance. We had a lot of complaints because you could fix it one day and after a rain it would wash. So we determined a flat area to put this equipment on.”
Hopes are to begin tearing down old equipment in August after it is presented to Loudon City Council in July, Harrelson said.
Bringing in the new equipment, which is comprised of steel, rope and cable, just makes sense given how old the equipment was, Loudon City Councilman Jeff Harris said.
“I think it’s been about 20 years since we’ve added anything to them,” Harris said. “So I think it’s as big plus for our kids and families to be able to get out and enjoy that, and plus we’re moving them to better locations. The biggest issue I think we’re going to have down at Legion (Park) is the geese down there. We’ve got to address that problem. I’ve had some parents complain about that, just with the number of geese that’s down there and how they tend to be pretty messy.
“We’ve got to see what we can do to address that, but I think this is just going to enhance people’s ability to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” he added.
Harris plans to get with Harrell to discuss a resolution for the geese.
Landscape Structures provided equipment for Liberty Park, while Gametime provided equipment at Legion Park. Four groups bid on the projects, Harrell said.
“The money difference was not — all four companies had different prices, again, because they were bidding apples to oranges,” Harrell said. “We may not have went with the lower company, which may not have been extremely higher, $1,000 ... less, but we went with the one that met the criteria in the type of equipment that we were trying (to get). Like one company might have been a little lower, but they had a lot of plastic in their (equipment) and we’re trying to stay away from plastic because of maintenance issues. It gets very hot, creates problems.”
With Legion and Liberty parks taken care of, city officials will now eye replacing equipment at the Lions Club Park. Hopes are to begin taking bids in January, Harrell said.