Playground

Cumberland's decommissioned Springdale Playground could see a rebirth with a $100,000 grant intended to turn it into a park with benches, lights and shade trees.

John A. Bone
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND - Right now it's just a big blob of fenced in asphalt and weeds with a slide and two swings that isn't attractive or serene.

With a $100,000 Community Parks and Playground grant, though, what's known as Springdale Playground could see a complete turnaround.

It also could solve the problem of what to do with the decommissioned playground.

Kathy McKenney, the city's historic planner and preservation coordinator, wrote the grant that resulted in the funding earmarked solely for the space. The decision to pursue such funding was made while plans for the Virginia Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Plan were under way.

The intent is to create a "passive park versus a playground" meaning benches, lights and shade trees with the possibility of a small play structure will mark the land rather than several pieces of equipment.

Most of the playground equipment was removed after the city decommissioned the playground in 2003 or 2004, Jeff Rhodes, administrative services director, said.

The recommendation to deactivate the site because of low usage came from a Stephen Parks and Associates Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Study conducted in 2002.

But because Program Open Space funds had been utilized there in the past, keeping it a green space made the most sense.

"The process is very, very difficult," Rhodes said of changing a POS site to something other than a green space. "Usually, you have to create equal space in the neighborhood."

The playground, located on Springdale Street between Virginia Avenue and Industrial Boulevard, was built in the 1970s.

By the end of the 1990s, though, the playground was falling into disrepair and needed help. The hope was that a nonprofit group would come forward and take it over.

A few were close.

The Redmen Sioux Tribe 201 and its auxiliary, Pocahontas Council 64, embraced a project in 1998 and even hosted a successful Kids Day event at the playground.

Members also talked of plans to adopt the playground that sits not far from the organization's Virginia Avenue location.

The Chapel Hill West Neighborhood Association Inc. also came forth in 2002 going so far the following year as to present a 14-page proposal that included a five-year maintenance and operation agreement.

Those plans called for the playground to be torn up with a grand reopening slated for Memorial Day 2004.

None of those proposals came to fruition.

When meetings concerning the Virginia Avenue redevelopment plan were held, members of that steering committee didn't seem to agree on what to do with the parcel either.

The recent grant, however, helps clarify things but the hope still exists to find a group to help.

"I think we'd still like to see ultimately a partnership in the maintenance of it with trash and grass cutting," McKenney said. "Some groups over the course of the (Virginia Avenue) redevelopment plan voiced some willingness to help with that."

She added that the Board of Public Works still must approve the grant but once that happens, the money should be available soon thereafter.

McKenney said once money is received, she expects the project to take no longer than two years to complete.

Past Community Parks and Playground grants have been received for work at Jaycee Field, Constitution Park and the C. Eugene Mason Sports Complex.

Maria Smith can be reached at msmith@times-news.com.

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