Most youngsters get excited about the chance to swing, slide, climb and twirl around on a playground. There’s something that screams just plain “fun” when mom or dad points in the direction of swings or a slide and says, “Go!”
That emotion hasn’t always been shared by youngsters who have special needs, or are disabled, and for whatever reason were left behind in a wheelchair, walker, or other device that requires them to not run, but rather sit and watch and wish they could be out there, as well.
Tuesday, Southaven city officials made it possible for those youngsters to also be able to enjoy playground equipment as it opened its Field of Dreams Playground at Snowden Grove Park.
Southaven joined Olive Branch as the two DeSoto County communities to offer the amenity, as Olive Branch opened theirs at City Park in 2017.
Mayor Darren Musselwhite garnered the help of several youngsters to cut the ribbon to open the Field of Dreams all-inclusive playground in a Tuesday evening event.
The Southaven playground, located at the corner of Nail Road and Snowden Lane, cost about $448,000 in equipment and site preparation and provides modern features as it complements the Field of Dreams special needs ball diamond located next to the playground.
The playground meets all of the requirements to be accessible to children with special needs and/or are disabled.
“It’s ADA, or handicapped accessible,” said Southaven Parks and Recreation Director Wesley Brown. “Everything is geared towards the special needs children, from the wheelchair swing to the slides, the steps, musical instruments and the padded surface and turf grass.”
ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act.
Funding for the enhancement, which is part of the city’s overall parks improvement program over four years to improve opportunities in Mississippi’s third-largest city, was dependent on the Penny for the Parks, or one-cent tourism tax on hotel and restaurant usage in the city.
“It was 100 percent paid by the restaurant and tourism tax,” said Musselwhite.
UrbanARCH Architecture and Brown helped come up with the design and layout that includes a baseball theme to be in line with the Snowden Grove Park baseball diamonds.
Great Southern Recreation of Murfreesboro, Tennessee handled the playground’s construction.
“A lot of projects take years to come about,” Musselwhite said. “A lot of it is from ideas that citizens bring to us. This was not my idea but when it was brought to my attention, I felt it was a good plan. The Board of Aldermen supported that as did the Parks Director, so we made it happen.”
“Community response to this has been amazing,” Brown said about the playground opening. “We were 24 hours late in this opening due to weather and there were people who were upset about that.”
It is also an addendum to recent improvements already made in Southaven, such as the new tennis complex and pro shop at Snowden Grove, Greenbrook softball training facility, and improvements to the Southaven Arena to allow more volleyball opportunities.
Other plans that are part of the overall program include a new complex at Snowden Grove Park to provide for eight new soccer fields, and the paving and landscaping project for the BankPlus Amphitheater and Springfest festival.
That project, set to begin shortly after Springfest this year is finished, will cost about $1 million to complete.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.