Published on March 16th, 2016 |


New Chastain Park $2.8 million playground’s grand opening Saturday

The celebrating actually began Feb. 26 at the Chastain Park Conservancy’s annual member appreciation breakfast, when Cynthia Gentry shared “Play Chastain: Growing up Playfully,” the story behind Chastain Park’s new 40,000-square-foot play area.

The toll double slide is one of the featured activities at the new Play Chastain playground.

The double slide is one of the featured activities for adults and children at the new Play Chastain playground.

But the public grand opening celebration of the $2.8 million redevelopment of the Chastain Park Playground will take place at 2-5 p.m. Saturday (March 19). The party includes food, drinks, entertainment and a brief program. Mostly, though, there will be play.

The Conservancy will undoubtedly also use Saturday’s event to introduce to the public its new Play Chastain Paver Campaign, through which people can help fund the new playground by purchasing a personal brick to be placed in the playground area. The bricks are offered in three sizes for $150, $250 and $500 each.

The six-acre, tree-lined, hilly oasis and outdoor natural learning environment was envisioned by some of the estimated 80,000 children who live within five miles of the park. The kids participated in park play events or school visits by Conservancy representatives where they described the playground they wanted.

Gentry of Play Atlanta, whose presentation focused on “the importance of bringing play into our lives,” worked with the Chastain Park Conservancy board and staff to develop the program that brought children together to design their dream playground.

That dream playground is designed to challenge them to use their muscles as well as their imaginations. From a gentle area for tots to challenging experiences for teens, the playground calls out for children to come, play hard and visit often.

Two long and bumpy slides, donated by YP.com, sit side-by-side, inviting children (and adults) to race each other. There’s a smaller slide for little ones. Boulders and tree stumps invite scrambles

Cynthia Gentry discusses getting the children involved in designing their dream playground.

Cynthia Gentry discusses getting the children involved in designing their dream playground.

up a steep hillside. Three giant ‘oodle’ swings accommodate two or more children at once. There is a climbing wall and a place where children can make music on drums and chimes.

And there is a tree house. Like everything else in the playground, it is wheelchair accessible and welcomes children to gaze out on the play area below.

City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who has worked with the Conservancy in support of this and other projects, will be on hand for the 2 p.m. official ribbon cutting. The event will take place at the new pavilion, which features an outdoor piano in one corner and has spacious and clean restroom facilities.

Parking will be available in the Red Lot at the Horse Park on Powers Ferry Road. Buses will transport attendees to the event.

“It’s great to see the community’s excitement around the new playground,” said Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong. “This playground coming to fruition could not have happened without the community’s input and involvement which is exactly what we want to see happen.”

Four years in the making, the playground replaces a smaller, outdated facility. However, the best of the old playground has been retained and refurbished.

three chikdren enjoy the new "oodle' swing .

Three children enjoy the new “oodle’ swing.

The Conservancy has had the help of some of Atlanta’s largest foundations: corporations such as YP, Publix Market Charities, Chick-fil-A, the city of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, and individual donors, the Conservancy has brought their dreams to life.

As Jennifer Richter, the Conservancy’s new chairperson, said at the annual member breakfast, Chastain Park is “a place where we come together….an amazing asset. It feels like family to me. There are so many things going all the time.”

Richter, who is the first woman to head the Conservancy, told the breakfast audience of about 50 supporters that people can now realize “how much we have when we are in a playful spirit.”

While the focus of that morning was clearly on the new playground, which had just received city clearance to open the weekend before, Richter told the audience the Conservancy “made great strides in 2015 toward fulfilling our mission—especially in park improvements.”

Certainly not overlooked is the other major undertaking, the Walk Chastain project, which involves the PATH Foundation widening the sidewalk along the Powers Ferry Road side of the golf course to make it safer for walkers and joggers and consistent with the PATH around the rest of the park.

The Walk Chastain project is expected to be substantially completed by the end of May, weather permitting and if the utility poles are able to be moved by then.

Two younger children enjoy the activities in the calmer section of Play Chastain's playground.

Two younger children enjoy the activities in the calmer section of Play Chastain’s playground.

In conjunction with both the Play Chastain and Walk Chastain projects, Sandy Springs City Councilman Andy Bauman announced at the meeting that Sandy Springs has agreed to improve the section of Dudley Lane that is in his city and runs along the north end of the new playground area with sidewalks.

Bauman also said he is working with Atlanta Councilwoman Adrean to provide funds to have Dudley Lane completely improved both by Sandy Springs and Atlanta. Bauman said the next step is to work on his government to put sidewalks in on Lake Forrest Drive to connect Chastain Park to his constituents in Sandy Springs.

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Phuong, who also spoke at the breakfast meeting, said there is a commitment of more than $100,000 to bring up to 15 security cameras to the park.

She said when she started in her job, she found herself having to say no to most requests. “That is now shifting from ‘yes but’ to ‘yes and.’” Phuong added, “I am happy to work to ensure Chastain remains a jewel in the city.”

Conservancy vice chairman Jay Smith told her, “You may be Amy Phuong, but to us you are Commissioner Yes.”

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