Jonah Cleveland was excited Saturday when he and his parents showed up at the Toyota of Tri-Cities Playground of Dreams.
He had a chance to test out the pretend train station, with its buttons that make train whistle noises and to climb on the tyke-sized model of the cable bridge.
His parents, Isaac and Kara Cleveland, were impressed with the changes.
“It’s really beautiful,” Isaac Cleveland said.
They were not the only ones. Dozens of children played on newly opened sections of the park as a group of city officials gathered to celebrate finishing the second phase of renovations at the Kennewick park.
“Of the many reasons that we’re so excited that the playground is open, the most essential is the opportunity for future generations to play, laugh, have fun and make memories, which as you can see is already happening today,” City Manager Marie Mosley said.
The playground has been a jewel in the park system since it was built in 1999 with the help for more than 1,000 volunteers, she said. After a fire destroyed it in 2003, many of the same volunteers returned the next year to rebuild it.
When the well-loved wooden structure began deteriorating, city officials returned to the public to learn what they wanted to see when it was rebuilt.
Toyota of Tri-Cities donated $450,000 toward the $1 million construction, and with other money coming in, construction started in 2018. The first phase debuted last fall. The park closed for a while this spring while the new equipment was installed.
Much of the wood has been replaced with metal and other materials that won’t decay as quickly over time. They also included a play surface that is more accessible for wheelchairs.
Making the community better
The city council put $325,000 toward the project. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Lee said it is an investment in the safety and economic health of the community.
“What was started in 1999, continues today, and the collective commitment ensures countless more memories will be made at the Toyota of Tri-Cities Playground of Dreams,” he said. “Our residents deserve safe destinations for their families. Having recreation opportunities and well-maintained parks are proven to reduce crime.”
Along with that, beautiful parks attract visitors, and with more recreation opportunities, businesses are more likely to settle in the city, officials note.
The work is not done on the playground. The city is hoping to raise another $100,000 to install a zip line and a climbing feature. The fountain is already laid, said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Ken Hahn.
“In the meantime, we couldn’t be more thankful to the sponsors, volunteers and contributors who have made this possible, and we dedicate this playground to the community,” he said.
For now, having all of the families enjoying the playground makes the work worthwhile, said Emily Estes-Cross, Parks, Recreation and Economic Development director for Kennewick.