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Marion Community Building’s park gets closer to fully reopening
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Marion Community Building’s park gets closer to fully reopening

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The Marion Community Building’s park is getting closer to finally fully reopening, and it should be ready later this spring for kids to enjoy it again.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Marion City Council heard an update from Public Works Director Brant Sikes on the work at the Community Building’s park.

Much of the beloved park in the middle of Marion has been closed for the past few years when sinkholes were found underneath. The park, except for the tennis courts and splash pad area, were closed until further notice. After getting grant money and much work, the city was able to fix the problems once and for all.

“We are making progress on the Community Building park,” Sikes said to council. “The installation of the equipment is 90% complete.”

Sikes added his crews have taken advantage of the recent good weather to get this long-awaited work finished. Almost all of the new playground equipment has been installed. It will have swings, a slide and equipment for kids to climb.

The name of the new playground is the “Swamp Fox Fort.” Planning Director Heather Cotton said it is designed to mimic a fort like one kids would build in the woods.

“It was designed to feel larger than life and spark imagination,” said Cotton to The McDowell News. “The fort is centered in the middle of an imaginary marshy area with a giant mushroom spinner, talking flowers, rock climbing wall, giant honey bee, vine crawler, tree climber, and a Rockin’ raft. The tube and slide are bluish-purple to mimic a waterfall, and the pour-in-place rubber surfacing will be green and blue to represent the marshy grass area and blue pond.”

There is also a special rocking glide equipment for those with disabilities to enjoy.

“The playground was designed for inclusive play that accommodates children of all ability levels including those who require mobility devices such as walkers or wheelchairs,” said Cotton.

The special feature that looks like a Ferris wheel seat is called a “Rockin’ Raft.” It swings back and forth and can accommodate people with physical disabilities.

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The funding for the playground was provided by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, according to Cotton.

Sikes said he expects a contractor to start pouring concrete around the playground equipment next week.

When that is done, a rubberized surface will be added to make it safer. It will be similar to the playground at the McDowell County Health Department.

The concrete and rubber will also eliminate a problem from a few years ago when parents complained about insects buzzing around the park’s playground during the hot summer months. Those insects were actually ground-dwelling wasps and they were mostly harmless. But people were still very worried about letting children play around these buzzing, flying insects that looked like bees or yellow jackets. At the time, city officials said there was no easy fix for this solution.

Now, the new surface should make all the difference.

In addition, a new gazebo is in place on a hillside above the playground.

Sikes added that the playground project should be wrapped up by the end of April.

That means children will be able to enjoy the park’s playground just in time for this spring and summer.

“In the near future, when the completion date is certain, the city will announce an opening date for the playground and likely schedule a ribbon cutting,” said City Manager Bob Boyette.

In a similar matter, the City Council heard an update on the Marion Depot. The interior has been repainted and it looks bigger with the brighter colors inside. The installation of a new heat pump is almost done.

In addition, council awarded a contract to T.P. Howard Plumbing Co. of Fairview in the amount of $120,000 to complete storm drainage repairs on Blue Ridge Street. This amount was well under the project’s budget of $149,455.

A sinkhole formed in Blue Ridge Street after Tropical Storm Alberto hit this area in 2018, revealing storm drainage issues that needed to be repaired. Since Alberto was declared as a state disaster, North Carolina Emergency Management will fund 75% of the repair costs, city officials said.

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