Every county has a parks and recreation department that’s responsible for community activity programs and maintaining and ensuring the safety of its parks. But, sometimes, the playground equipment in parks unintentionally gets overlooked and becomes unsafe for children and families.
Hampton County has only one park under its name, and it’s located next door to the parks and recreation gymnasium and offices in the small town of Varnville. Recreation Park has been there for decades and it probably once hosted tons of kids and families over the years. As kids’ play choices changed, so has the foot traffic at Recreation Park. In addition, the decline in local economies has made parks and playgrounds less of a priority for rural areas of the state like Hampton County.
“Some of the equipment is probably more than 30 years old,” said Tania Peeples, Hampton County Parks and Recreation director. “The teeter-totter is wood, so it’s old. The bouncers and merry-go-round, I played on those as a child. The swing set has chains, but no seats.”
The department has changed leadership a few times, but each person had visions of bringing the park back to life and making their community healthier. They applied for a Let’sGo! 3.0 mini-grant to bring in some new playground equipment, and Wholespire was happy to give them a boost.
“Our small towns are treasures and truly deserve some help, especially those located in the I-95 corridor,” said Meg Stanley, Wholespire executive director. “Providing children and families a safe place to play is a basic community amenity that helps everyone grow healthy.”
Mini-grant funding was used to:
- Replace the tire swing.
- Replace missing seats and broken chains on the swing set.
- Add new equipment like a double seat bouncer, truck bouncer, pearl twirl, and teeter-totter bouncer.
Peeples said, “The community loves it. The kids love it. We do have quite
a few people who come out and play. We still have a lot of work to do out there but the new playground equipment really brightened it up.”
The new playground equipment has spurred excitement for Peeples. “I would like to remove the plastic ring around the swing set, clean it out, and plant sod. I would love to add some picnic shelters with tables in an empty area. Of course, I’d like to see a paved walking trail around the park, replace some benches, and add an accessible swing.”
Did we mention Recreation Park has a nature trail? Under Peeples’ leadership, a nature trail, which had become overgrown with bamboo and weeds, was discovered. Completely inaccessible to the community and mostly forgotten about, Peeples and other parks and recreation leaders set out to uncover the lost gem. Located behind Recreation Park, the nature trail winds through woods and wetlands — complete with a wooden bridge. Restoring the trail will add even more value to the only county park and the lives of its residents and visitors.
“I’m a lover of the outdoors, so hearing that they rediscovered a nature trail is exciting and hopeful for Hampton County,” said Stanley. “I hope this small bit of funding from us will inspire them to reach for the stars and apply for other funding opportunities to help complete their vision.”