Representative from PlayCore met with an advisory committee and interested East Ridge citizens to discuss plans to upgrade Pioneer Frontier playground, Monday evening at the Community Center.
Fred Wiechmann, a principal at PlayCore, rolled out a “pioneer themed” version of what the upgraded playground made of high-tech materials, and a new splash pad water feature could look like. Wiechmann said his company, which installed the new playground at Camp Jordan Park, was told by city officials the budget for the new facility could be as high as $1 million.
City Manager Scott Miller said that the city is pursuing a $500,000 grant from the state’s Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF). The city would be required to match the $500,000. He cautioned that the grant is highly competitive and that the city may not receive the full amount. If that were the case, the plans for the playground would be scaled back.
City officials were told some years ago by representatives of the Tennessee Municipal League – the entity which insures the City of East Ridge – that the aging Pioneer Frontier playground was a safety concern. The playground, which was built in 1995 by community volunteers, is constructed of timbers which are deteriorating and splintering. TML recommended that the facility be replaced.
East Ridge was awarded a $200,000 LPRF grant four years ago, but declined the money. The funding was to be used to build a dog park, basketball and tennis courts at the property on Monroe Street that the city sold to developers and is now home to the Walmart Neighborhood Market. An alternate plan was to spend the grant money to build similar facilities at Camp Jordan. That plan was ultimately abandoned.
Amanda Bowers, the city’s Community Involvement Coordinator, said city officials will not learn if East Ridge will receive the grant until late summer or early fall.
PlayCore representatives said that if the city receives a lower amount of funding through the grant the plans for the upgraded Pioneer Frontier could be altered to whatever money is available.
On Monday Wiechmann unveiled a number of proposed thematic elements which included a rocking wagon, climbing features resembling a butter churn, a “tri-runner” that resembles a controlled-spin carnival ride, and a huge swing that can accommodate three or more kids swinging all together. All of the materials, PlayCore officials said, are high-tech and durable, and all the features of the playground would be accessible to children with special needs and compliant with federal laws.
Debbie Colburn, an advisory committee member and instrumental in the building of the original playground, asked about the community participating in the construction of the new playground, as it did back in 1994. PlayCore officials said that it had planned on including volunteers to help construct elements of the playground. PlayCore workers would do all of the foundation work with heavy equipment. Once that is done, volunteers would be given what amounts to a blueprint for a playground element and would bolt together and construct many playground elements.
“It will feel like what you did 20 years ago,” Wiechmann said. “I feel like community participation is a must.”
Some elements of the original Pioneer Frontier – plaques, casts of hand prints and the like – would be salvaged and incorporated into the new design, PlayCore officials said.
PlayCore officials said the dismantling of the old park, and the construction of a sub-base for the splash pad could take up to a month. The new elements of Pioneer Frontier could be constructed with community volunteers in a matter of two or three days.