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Playground completes second phase

Business may have been usual at the Farm Fresh location on North Main Street Wednesday morning, but just behind the store dozens of toddlers and preschoolers were enjoying the new play structures at KidsZone.

KidsZone celebrated the completion of its second phase with the first KidsFest, open to preschool aged children and complete with games, bounce houses, a fire truck, tumble bus, face painting and a bubble station.

“What we’ve added to the park are structures for toddlers to play on and a ‘tween’ area for older kids to climb on,” said Brenda O’Donnell of the Early Childhood Development Commission. “We decided to celebrate their completion by hosting an event to celebrate some of our youngest citizens.”

The phase added additional play structures for toddlers and pre-teens to the already extensive variety of play structures at KidsZone.

The toddler’s area will be a fenced in area, where patrons can play in smaller slides and tunnels. The pre-teen area has vertical panels with holes and notches that create a more challenging climbing structure for older children to play on, while younger siblings can enjoy the first phase’s many slides, monkey bars, swings, teeter-totters and climbing structures.

“I think the new additions are great,” said Meredith Beesing, mother of a 1-year-old and 3-year-old. “It used to be targeted for older children, but now I can bring both my children, and they can each have something age appropriate to do. I can come do my grocery shopping and take my kids to the park. It’s killing two birds with one stone.”

The park is a community driven project, led by the Suffolk Early Childhood Development Commission with help from the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department. Under the help and leadership of the commission and parks department, more than $250,000 was raised to build the park.

“It shows you just what can happen when individuals get involved in a community driven project,” said Suffolk parks planner Mike Kelly. “The city can’t invest enough money that is needed to make something like this, but the community has really come together to make this happen for the children of Suffolk.”

The park was established in downtown to help meet many needs in the established community.

“There were some parks in North Suffolk, but we wanted to make something centrally located and meet the diverse needs of the children in our community,” said commission chairwoman Tamie Rittenhouse. “There were certainly smaller parks downtown, but nothing of this size that could meet the large and diverse needs of the children.”

The park is handicap accessible and has ramps on some of the structures so children in wheel chairs can access some of the panels on the structures and there is a swing specially made for children who need assistance.”

“We’ve always loved coming to the park,” said Erin Hughes, whose daughter was born prematurely. While she never had to use any of the handicap features, “playing on the playground really helped her development. She saw kids doing things and she wanted to do them. The swings, steps and climbing walls have all helped her reach her potential. All the different features have made it easy for a children of all different levels of development to have a fun time.”

An upcoming addition to the park will be a city-funded project to put in a skate park for bikes, rollerblades and skateboards.