New playground opens to the public

As soon as Mayor Lark Jones cut the ribbon, kids nearly ran him over to get to the new Riverview Park Adaptive Playground.

The playground, which has an emphasis for the handicapped, marks a return to Riverview Park. Rick Meyer, director of the North Augusta Department of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services, noted that the old playground was the first thing torn in the renovations to the area and the last to return.

"You look into the eyes of these children, especially the special needs kids, and you see the smiles. It really does the heart good. It's what we're in the business of, serving people in the community," he said.

The project was made possible due to a $100,000 federal grant through the Land and Water Conservation fund from the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo.

The playground is conveniently located next to the outfield of the North Augusta High School's softball field.

"It's going to last a long, long time," Jones said. "You could just see a level of excitement here. It will continue during the week after school is out and on weekends when parents will bring their kids here. It's good because if they have an older child playing in a ball game, the younger children can use these facilities."

Jones also noted that the facilities are greatly improved for safety, as well as fun.

"There's a couple of things here I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with. Back in my day there were slides and swings and merry-go-rounds," he said. "It use to be sand so hot that you could barely stand on it, but this new type flooring is so soft you can fall and not get hurt."

Terri McBride, whose son Marquise was in attendance, as well as Brandy Rutland's first-grade class from North Augusta Elementary and Uyen Griffis' special needs class from Hammond Hill, was very pleased with how the playground made her son just another one of the kids.

"This playground means a whole lot to me; just having somewhere for him to be able to enjoy himself is a blessing," McBride said. "I don't have to just take him to a park and let him watch other kids play. Now he can get on a swing and get on the playground and enjoy himself."

Meyer also noted that the playground was far more a location, it was necessity.

"I've said this before, but when you spend $5 million renovating your park, and we were looking at what we had for a playground, we were shaking our heads," he said. "We can't just come back and put any little playground. We have to put something that matches the scope of the project. We saw there was an opportunity with the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for a grant, and we had to secure that grant. This is a $200,000 project and you have to get that $100,000 from them. We just went and said 'This is what we want to do' and hit a home run with the project."

Pam Stickler, president and founder of the RECing Crew, was also in attendance and felt that the playground provided a great way for kids of different ability levels to interact.

"I think the biggest statement is that there were two classrooms of kids, and at the end there were kids from both classes crying and not wanting to leave," she said. "These kids were able to get to the higher point of the monkey bars, make music at the little stations, get in a swing and feel that sensation and do so many other things. It's really just amazing."

Stickler, who served on the committee to choose the playground, felt that it hit that the City hit a home run.

"There was no difference for the kids between them being able to do this or do that," she said. "They were all playing together and didn't see any differences. It opens up an awful lot of doors for individuals."