At Greenwood’s newest playground, children can make-believe they are some of the community’s greatest heroes.
Kids who dream of one day being a firefighter can scramble around a replica of Fire Engine 91, steering their way to a imaginary fire. They can run in and out of a faux brick firehouse, clamber up a ladder to a lookout tower and whoosh down the twisty slide.
The firefighter-themed play area is completed and open to the public, with a ribbon-cutting officially unveiling the play set this morning. The project is a collaboration between Greenwood’s fire department, parks department, Rotary Club and other organizations.
Located behind Greenwood Fire Station 91, the playground will strengthen the connection between firefighters and the Greenwood community, Greenwood Fire Chief Darin Hoggatt said.
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“When we have people at the fire station, it’s great at the end to have kids go out and exercise a little bit while having fun,” he said. “We stress our daily routine in being physically fit and being ready for the next run when we bring kids through on station tours. This playset helps illustrate the mindset that physical activity is good.”
The play pocket originally was envisioned by former Greenwood Fire Chief James Sipes, who came to the city’s parks department with the idea. Greenwood had added a series of pocket parks — small play areas for the public — in other greenspaces throughout the city.
Sipes suggested one could go in the open area behind Station 91, adjacent to Pleasant Creek and along an extended trail that connected Craig Park and the city’s amphitheater to Main Street.
Parks director Rob Taggart heard the idea and agreed it would be positive for the community.
“Everything just started snowballing from there. We decided to work together on it and go,” said Hoggatt, who took over as chief in June.
The pocket park cost about $96,000 to build, with different community groups sharing the cost. The Greenwood Fire Foundation, the nonprofit service branch of the department, contributed about $50,000 to the project through its own fundraisers and assistance by groups, such as the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Johnson County Community Foundation.
The parks department contributed about $30,000 to construction.
When the Greenwood Rotary Club found out about the project, members also wanted to help. The club has access to grants offered through the Rotary organization, and was able to secure $20,000 to contribute.
“Every year, we apply for these district grants and try to do some kind of project in the community,” said Amy Lee, president-elect for the Greenwood Rotary Club. “When the parks department and fire department said they were working on this, we felt it would be a great project for Rotary.”
The Rotary Club has a strong connection, not just to the area parks but to that particular area of Greenwood. The club was instrumental in contributing funds to the nearby amphitheater when it was built about 30 years ago.
“Rotary has been here in Greenwood for a long time, and we always want to do something in the community. Doing this for kids is a great thing,” Lee said.
Construction on the pocket park started July 26. Representatives from PlayTime, the national playground equipment company that created the set, were on hand to help with installation.
Otherwise, volunteers and parks department employees helped prepare the playground site, assemble the set and spread mulch around it.
“It was a monumental task bringing everyone to the table and trying to make sure all of those pieces were going the right way,” Hoggatt said. “There were a lot of steps to the process, but it all came together.”
With the play set open to the public, there’s a feeling of excitement surrounding Station 91. The project is a chance to bring people closer to and connect with their local fire department.
Being able to look out the windows of the station and see kids laughing, playing and pretending to be firefighters will be special as well, Hoggatt said.
“It helps complete our mission. We do so much for community outreach and do so many things such as station tours and safety thoughts. This is a good part of all of this,” he said.
Firefighter-themed play pocket
What: The official unveiling of the new play set, designed and decorated with a firefighter theme. The play area will feature climbing features, slides, a lookout tower and a replica fire engine that kids can play on.
When: 10 a.m. today
Where: Behind Greenwood Fire Station 91, 155 E. Main St.