By Mindy Rubenstein | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dozens of children of all ages have flocked to the new playground in Toco Hills since it officially opened Friday, May 1, when the orange barricades and yellow caution tape were removed about a week after it was completed.
“The county still needs to fill in the area around the playground before it can be open for play,” Friends of Kittredge Park had posted on its Facebook page. “I know it’s very tempting to play on, but for your safety please stand by for the official ‘all clear’ to play.”
Since its official opening, the playground has hardly seen a quiet moment. Families meet there and eat dinner on picnic tables as their children play nearby, the sun setting through the tall pine trees of Kittredge Park. Strollers line the walkway leading from the street to the play area. Children play tag, laugh, climb and jump. Moms chat about doctor’s appointments and healthy snacks.
The playground came together after months of meetings and preparation involving the community and various organizations.
In addition to the purple-and-turquoise playground, there are wooden shade structures for picnic tables, trash receptacles and a bike rack, as well as the garden beds and an outdoor classroom space with wooden benches.
Dana Harris, the executive director and founder of Next Steps Youth Entrepreneur Program, runs the garden and several others throughout Atlanta to educate students about various aspects of gardening.
Harris said she is recruiting leaders from the community to help run the garden, including deciding what to grow. She hopes to do more than teach about gardening.
“We want to teach about the culture of Toco Hills,” said Harris, who spearheaded the project, including applying for the grant from KaBoom and working directly with Toco Hills resident Danny Minkow.
“It’s new to me,” Harris said of Jewish practice, including keeping kosher and observing Shabbat. She said she enjoyed meeting Jewish parents and the families who participated in the playground’s design day at DeKalb International Student Center this year.
“I’m excited to be welcomed into the Toco Hills community,” she said, adding that more work must be done to make the garden, playground and park “beautiful and safe for everybody.”
She noted concerns raised by the yeshiva and community members about the possibility of increased traffic and said organizers are working to prevent any problems.
To keep cars off Holly Lane, designated parking for the playground is at the closed Briarcliff High School on North Druid Hills Road, with a cleared walking path and signs leading through the woods to the park. Work remains to be done on that path and on the playground, Harris said.
“Any leftover monies will go towards new mulch once it is needing replacement,” Friends of Kittredge Park’s Bill Lide said.
He said they will ask the county to install a water fountain and a restroom on the site, as well as a chain-link fence along the back side of the playground for safety. “We hope that these projects will be installed by the end of the year.”
Harris said she is excited about the opportunity to connect religious, cultural and global aspects of the community through the park as school groups participate in classes at the garden.
“It’s an opportunity to educate people about DeKalb’s diverse population,” said Harris, noting that more than 40 countries are represented at the nearby DeKalb International Student Center.
“It’s going to make Kittredge Park an exciting place,” she said.
Jeff Cohen, who has lived in Toco Hills with his wife, Faith, for 13 years, said the playground is perfect for their two children. Goldie is 4, and Avraham is 15 months.
“The playground accommodates a good age range,” he said. The playground has two separate areas for different ages up to 12, though adults have tried out the equipment with their kids.
Throughout the day, squeals of delight can be heard coming from the playground as parents and children come and go — spinning, climbing, sliding, running and meeting new friends.
“I’m very excited,” Cohen said. “It’s a big attribute for the neighborhood.”