July 29, 2014

Kids ‘learn the ropes’ at renovated Grandview park

Climbing structures are colossal in Grandview’s Valley Park, but network of ropes will break falls when kids lose their grip. A 55-foot tube slide takes advantage of the park’s sloping topography.

When Grandview officials cut the ceremonial ribbon marking the reopening of the renovated Valley Park, dozens of children let out happy squeals and ran for the new playground equipment to climb up, slide down, swing on and zip across it.

Parks and Recreation Director Eric Lucas sounded ready to cry a moment before, choking up as he thanked his staff for having “worked your tails off,” completing renovations on nine parks in the previous four months.

Lucas also thanked the voters who backed a 2008 bond issue that paid for renovations to 11 of the city’s 13 parks (plus a new public works facility), as well as the city’s aldermen and its parks and recreation committee.

“This is the best playground I’ve ever seen in my life,” Lucas said. “I’ll be here with my own family playing on it.”

Playground designer Luke Vardanian, of the German-based company Berliner Seilfabrik, said Valley Park was a one-of-a-kind creation that blends his company’s innovative equipment designs with the topography.

Vardanian, who came from his office in Greenville, S.C., to attend the opening, is Berliner’s lead North American designer.

“The slide is one of a kind,” Vardanian said. “Almost everything we do is one of a kind.”

In addition to climbing structures and swings, the park features a zip line and percussive musical instruments such as bells.

Vardanian said Valley Park, at 123rd Terrace and Askew Drive, was “challenging because of the elevation,” which changes as one goes from east to west within the park. That drop, though, accommodated the 55-foot tube slide, in which sliders can reach 7 mph — or more if they are wearing particularly slick pants.

Vardanian said the equipment is designed to last forever and to resist vandalism, and that additions can easily be made later.

“We looked at all the manufacturers and chose the one we felt would meet the needs of the community,” said Lucas. “We wanted something others don’t have.”

The equipment cost $565,000, and the entire renovation of the park, including the purchase of two homes that were knocked down to make room for a parking lot, was $1.2 million, Lucas said.

“The park has been part of the Grandview system for years,” said Mayor Leonard D. Jones Jr., “but it has not been used. It had been neglected. We’ve not had a good vision for it, but this is a great vision of what we can do with a small space.”

City officials said that before the renovation, the park had a small entrance and was hidden from view from 123rd Terrace. With the two houses and several trees along the street removed, and with the airy new play equipment, visibility has been greatly improved.

Not only is the entire park designed with safety in mind, but so is the play equipment. Despite climbing structures up to 30 feet tall, Vardanian said, the ropes are arranged in such a way that a climber cannot fall more than six feet without another series of ropes breaking his or her fall.

The ground below the structures is covered with artificial grass, rather than wood or rubber chips, making the park easy to maintain.

Sarah Spencer of Grandview brought her three children to the opening and said she was pleased with the renovations to city parks.

“We love it,” she said. “For a smaller town, we’ve got some really nice parks. Grandview is increasingly becoming a family-friendly place to live.”

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