Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cora Kelly's Playground Dream Realized

The long-awaited community-funded Cora Kelly playground finally makes its official debut today just as the final day of school approaches tomorrow.

At 1:30pm today, ACPS officials and Cora Kelly PTA members will inaugurate the new Cora Kelly Elementary School Playground at 3600 Commonwealth Avenue with an official ribbon cutting. Tucked behind the Cora Kelly Rec Center, the general public can access the playground from West Reed Avenue.

Following the Del Ray Patch (Cora Kelly Playground Nears Completion) story a few weeks ago that the new playground wouldn't be available until late June, school officials allowed a "soft-opening" of the playground as final touches were installed. The Arlandrian reported in mid-May about the final phases of construction of the community-led effort to create a new place space at Cora Kelly Elementary and Four Mile Run Park. What was still a construction site last month, soon became a play space just awaiting swings and landscaping.

Work is underway at the long awaited new playground.
It's been several years in the making, filled with delays and disappointments, but today the students and neighbors of Cora Kelly Elementary School will be able to finally officially use that playground that they've only been able to look at through construction fences for over a year.

In a letter to Mike Peter, treasurer of the Hume Springs Citizens Association, Jack Browand, of Alexandria's Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities says the playground at was expected to be finished and ready by the end of May.

The Del Ray Patch gave us the hopeful story of the planned park back in September of 2010 ("Cora Kelly Working for a New Playground"):

The playground at Cora Kelly Elementary School is in need of a major facelift, and the school's PTA is on a mission to provide a playground the school's students deserve. But in order to achieve its goal, the organization is asking for support from the community.
According to Ashley Chappell, treasurer of the Cora Kelly PTA and project director, the current playground is at least 15 years old and was originally designed by a physical education teacher to facilitate drills, not play. 
The metal monkey bars and slides stand in stark contrast to the equipment at most playgrounds around the area—colorful apparatuses that promote fun and discovery and challenge children to push themselves to achieve.

According to the Patch, "the last straw came when the city recently discovered a West Nile Virus-carrying mosquito nearby, making it apparent the playground's drainage issues pose a health threat to the students."

With a goal of $115,000 for its playground project, the Cora Kelly PTA began fund-raising campaign to build a new and better playground.

It received a $60,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, and raised another $10,000 on its own, seeking the rest from a grant for KaBoom, a non-profit which a mission to create modern playspaces through community participation.

With the KaBoom grant in hand and playground equipment on-hand in the fall of 2011, the Cora Kelly Community started site prep in late December of that year.

But then everything came to a halt.

Built on the a portion of the City's Four Mile Run Park, the initial installation was not up to safety code and the project sat idle waiting for an additional infusion of funds from Alexandria City Public Schools in order to be completed.

Those funds finally became available last Fall and work re-commenced this May.

The play area behind Cora Kelly
has been a construction site for the last 18 months.


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