By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
When Atmore Community Splash Pad was opened, it was a big hit with local and area children. The newly installed playground adjacent to the splash pad is proving to be just as well received.
The new playground equipment — including a several-sided slide, a climbing spiral, a train for younger kids to climb over and more — was installed without fanfare recently, and youngsters from surrounding neighborhoods rushed to it as word spread.
“I’m just glad they went ahead and put it in, like they said they were going to do,” said Becky Purcell of Walnut Hill as she and her children — Jacob, 4, and Esther, 2 — prepared to leave the playground Sunday afternoon. “They love the splash pad, but it’s not open anymore, so this is just what the doctor ordered. They really like the train.”
The splash pad, designed for cooling off during hot weather, will reopen near the end of spring. Until then, the new playground will see plenty of action.
“We’ll be here as often as we can,” Purcell said. “Maybe Jacob and Esther will burn off some of their extra energy and not wear me out as much.”
Allen Walston, who spearheaded the fundraiser that led to creation of the splash pad, said the availability of a grant from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service helped pave the way for installation of the playground, although it also required some of the money left over from the initial solicitation.
“We were going to continue trying to raise money for the playground, but we found out that there were grants available from Auburn University Extension service,” Walston explained. “Dale Ash was the driving force behind that. She had Anthony Wiggins [with the Extension System] contact me, and we were able to obtain a grant. But there is also an investment of about $17,000 from Atmore Rotary and the Lions Club, and the money from the Celebrity Waiter fundraiser went toward the playground.”
One of the biggest problems with such playground equipment is that it gets hot to the touch during the summer months. The local facility shouldn’t have that problem to a significant degree.There is a giant umbrella that covers the larger play set, and two mobile shade structures that can be stored during the winter will be installed to provide further relief for children and their parents or guardians.
“It’s ready to go,” said Walston. “As part of the project, we’ll eventually put two shade structures so that just about the whole playground is shaded. But, since it’s almost fall and the weather is getting cooler, we’ll probably do that in the spring.”
According to a sign at the entrance, the playground is restricted to children 12 years old and younger.
“It’s not for older kids,” said Walston. “We’ve tried to cover all the ages up to 12. The playground is actually two sets of equipment, one for those two to five and one for those six to twelve.”
The Rotarian, who has spent countless hours soliciting funds and arranging for various portions of the project, said the playground installation represents the nearing of the end for the community project.
“I’m happy that the project is coming to an end,” Walston said. “It worked out pretty well that the playground was already in place when the splash pad shut down. That made the transition really smooth. I’m just glad the community, especially the children, are getting to enjoy it.”