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Grant program swings kids into summer with new playgrounds

by Kim Adams
June 05, 2014


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Kim Adams/MEDILL

This playground equipment at Honore Park in East Village has splintered wood and broken parts. It will soon be replaced thanks to a grant from the Chicago Plays program.

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Kim Adams/MEDILL

Screws are missing from this playground equipment at Honore Park in East Village. The park is one of more than 100 in Chicago that the Chicago Plays program will replace this summer.

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As the school year draws to a close, thousands of Chicago children will play on safer, brand-new playgrounds this summer.

More than 100 playgrounds will be replaced or refurbished in 2014 as part of the Chicago Plays program, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched last spring. Each selected park receives a $35,000 grant.

Three of those grants were awarded to playgrounds in East Village. Resident Ronda Locke, president of a local park advisory council, said safety was the primary concern at Honore, Snowberry and Superior parks.

“Some of the equipment has actually been handed down from an old, defunct daycare center,” she said. “It literally was disintegrating. Some of the wood would break off leaving sharp metal brackets.”

The renovations will also make the playgrounds more exciting for kids. Locke said in the past decade, a new swing set was the only improvement to Honore Park.

“Some of the equipment is just literally not fun,” she said. “They call them spring rides, but they’re more like stick rides. They’re just something the kids can sit on and then they run off to something else because it doesn’t do anything.”

The Friends of the Parks organization oversees the program, and the Chicago Park District funds it. The program will rebuild or renovate 325 of Chicago’s more than 500 parks over the next five years.

Replacing the old equipment, which in some cases is more than 20 years old, will bring more vibrancy to the communities, said Maria Stone, a director at Friends of the Parks.

“This is where people make friends, where moms and dads go to meet fellow parents,” she said. “Now you have these beautiful, bright, safe playgrounds. More and more kids and families are going to want to go these playgrounds. It makes it a destination.”

To be selected for a grant, communities had to submit an application that included signatures from at least 50 people in support of the renovations, information about the condition of the equipment and how the playground would impact the community.

Locke said the new playgrounds will add more to the neighborhood than just an enhanced play space.

“They will build a sense of community,” she said, “and encourage people to stay here regardless of what happens as the kids get older and not run to the suburbs.”