By Joel Hall
The City of Forest Park recently used a $50,925 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to renovate the children's play area of Starr Park.
The city will reveal these upgrades and open the new playground equipment to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
Forest Park Management Analyst Angela Redding was responsible for obtaining the grant for the new playground equipment. She said the last time the city received CDBG funds to improve Starr Park was in 2007, when Forest Park got $78,400 to build a new concessions stand and restroom area, and add new playground equipment for older children.
"The area that we will have the ribbon cutting on will be for smaller kids," Redding said. "There were some baby swing sets in that area [prior to the upgrade]. There was a sliding board, but the equipment had to be replaced. It really needed some improvements made to it."
The new playground, located directly behind the Forest Park Recreation Center, will include a modular play system with multiple activities, including swings, slides, and a number of different climbing structures. The play area also will feature new sod-and-kid-safe ground covering to help prevent scrapes and bruises.
"With this, instead of purchasing a bunch of smaller pieces, we purchased one large piece with lots of different activities," Redding said. "There are more swings available than before. It's similar to some of the equipment you find in Burger King and some of the different restaurants. Now, many can play on the equipment without having to wait."
Forest Park City Manager John Parker said the city believes it is important to find ways to invest in Starr Park, which has existed "in excess of 30 years."
"If you don't [re-invest], one day, you'll find yourself so far down that your park isn't being utilized, your citizens aren't getting their money's worth from the park, and it gets dilapidated," he said.
"The kids seem to be very satisfied with what we have out there. We not only strive to make it fun for the children, but as safe as possible, too."
Parker said the ribbon cutting for the new playground area will take place on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Local elected officials, as well as regional officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are expected to attend, he said.
"We'll have the ribbon cutting, and then it will be available to the kids," he said. "We have to make sure the concrete is dry and everything is ready for them."