The City of Durham, Keep Durham Beautiful, ABC11, Disney, and KaBOOM! partnered on Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 to build a new playground, designed by kids, in Oakwood Avenue Park at 411 Holloway Street.
Prep day for the installation of the new playground took place on Oct. 31. Volunteers sorted and separated all the new equipment in preparation for build day, which was held on November 2.
About 250 volunteers came together to build the new playground and revitalize the eastern entrance to the downtown park.
“We built the playground on Saturday, volunteers arrived at the park at 9 a.m. and we finished right around 3 p.m. It was just about six hours putting everything up,” said Annette Smith, who is the administrator analyst for grants at Durham Parks and Recreation.
Since 1996, KaBOOM! has been a national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play for America’s children.
According to their website, their mission is to create great play spaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Their website states, “Ultimately, we envision a place to play with walking distance of every child in America.”
Since there are about 600 children who live within walking distance to the playground, the revival of the park was greatly needed.
Research confirms that children need a place to play every day in order to be active and stay healthy, and since Oakwood Avenue Park had only a small amount of outdated equipment for the children to enjoy, the community decided to take the initiative.
Since 2009, KaBOOM! has recognized the city of Durham as a Playful City USA.
“Playgrounds are great for neighborhood perceptions, safety, and cleanliness,” says Smith.
The new playground is one of the dozen playgrounds renovated and made possible with the support from Disney to inspire kids to lead healthier lifestyles in providing the children of Durham with a safe place to play.
Because Disney Corporation added additional funding to this particular project, the community was also able to add gardens and blooming trees to the reconstruction of the park.
Although this was a city initiative, the community within the neighborhood was greatly involved and motivated to help out.
“We had incredible assistance from the neighborhood. The planning committee was made up of members of all of the partner agencies, but the bulk of them came from the neighborhoods themselves,” says Smith.
“The volunteer coordinator was a neighborhood resident, the construction and landscape design came from a neighborhood resident who owns his own landscaping business. The food coordinator also came from the neighborhood,” says Smith.
The neighborhood raised money for the park, raised awareness of the project, and helped solicit restaurants and other vendors for food for all of the volunteers.
Durham has fewer than 30 parks in the 69-park district that are five acres or less that are called neighborhood parks. These are parks that typically do not have parking lots. They are designed for neighborhood use like Oakwood Avenue Park.
Smith says, “Most of these little parks are very old and many of them have very old equipment if they have any equipment in them at all.”
Durham Parks and Recreation’s master plan, after feedback from the community, is to really work with neighborhoods and community groups to repurpose these parks and make them reflective of the community and the local environment with making sure that they are providing the purpose to the people who live closest to them.