Approximately 200 children, along with parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors crowded around the entrance of the newly renovated Hand-in-Hand Playground in Blacksburg on Tuesday, May 30 for the official ribbon cutting ceremony and reopening of the popular park.
Town Mayor, Julie Hager-Smith had the honor of wielding the extra-large scissors that cut the red ribbon stretched across the playground entrance, as excited children anxiously awaited the reopening of the park. Town Council members, along with Montgomery County Board of Supervisor members also joined the mayor at the park’s entrance during the ceremony.
Hager-Smith shared her own experiences visiting the park over the previous years, just before placing the last picket on the fence as part of the ceremonious grand opening.
“I did not imagine 30 years ago that I would be mayor here with the honor of welcoming you. I was a parent, like hundreds of others, and wanted to do good for my community,” Hager-Smith said. “The tradition of community and belonging and creativity goes on.”
According to the town of Blacksburg’s website at www.blacksburg.gov, this park has been in use to the community and surrounding residents for thirty-one years and was previously constructed by community volunteers. Over the years the playground had fallen into disrepair and needed a lot of work. The town requested Leathers & Associates, a playground design company that created the original playground over three decades ago, to design the new park.
“Bob Leathers started that company. His son, Mark, took over that company now, and his grandson was actually on this build,” Dean Crane, Director of Parks and Recreation, said during the opening remarks. “We also wanted to honor the past by refurbishing the old pickets. We added also new ones.”
Anyone wishing to purchase a personalized picket to add to the fence line can still do so for the cost of $75, with checks payable to the Town of Blacksburg. A form was available at the event, but pickets will remain on sale through the Blacksburg Parks and Recreation department. Individuals can personalize each picket they purchase with names of family members, organizations, or other special persons they wish to memorialize on the playground fence line.
Crane went on to explain the number of volunteers involved in the preparation of the park for the reopening.
“After the construction was completed, we asked for volunteers to come out and spread six tractor-trailer loads of mulch. I want to thank them,” Crane said. “Public Works; they did all the labor of taking down the playground, which was no small task. Doing the prep site; the hauling, the paving, and the clean-up.”
Crane also stated that the Blacksburg Community Relations department has provided updates to their YouTube videos, with filming continuing to take place at the ceremony. The updated videos should be made available to the public in about two weeks.
Re-deck Virginia, a deck maintenance and construction company based in Elliston, Virginia provided additional subcontracted work for the playground rebuild. Re-deck owner and New River Valley native, David Austin, was deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of this project.
“I was a kid playing on this playground. This is a great honor for me to join in, to rebuild it,” Austin said. “From a builder perspective, there is no wood, it is all composite. The old one started rotting after about 25-30 years, this won’t rot. You won’t get splinters, its safe for the kids, it is completely composite, very well built.”
Austin explained that many improvements to the style and structure of the playground equipment were also part of the rebuild. The structures are taller, several more slides were added, there are quite a few ropes, there is a boat-like structure that rocks back and forth, a rock- climbing wall, and what instantly seemed to become a popular spot for the kids was the zip line.
An added bonus at the ribbon cutting event were the donuts provided by Carol Lee Donuts and the food truck, Sam’s Hot Dogs. The most exciting part for the children and the adults as well was seeing the smiling faces of the children as they burst through the park’s entrance and began climbing, swinging, and sliding on the new equipment.
Siblings visiting the new park, ten-year-old Rohn McAllister and seven-year-old Juniper McAllister, were also anxious to see the new look of the playground.
“It is a big difference. It’s hard to recognize the playground because it’s so different,” Rohn McAllister said. Rohn’s sister Juniper was also very excited about the new playground and especially seeing her friends, a highlight of coming to the community park.
“Some of the new things remind me of some of the rollercoasters I like,” Juniper McAllister said. “It’s really easy because I feel it’s a bit taller. I can basically spot my friends” Juniper McAllister said.