Brand new playground gives Kinston park a facelift

Volunteers work on the Pearson Park playground in Kinston on Thursday, June 22. (Nicole Griffin/NewsChannel 12)

KINSTON, Lenoir County - More than 200 volunteers spent their day in Kinston Thursday building an all-inclusive playground for the community in an area that was damaged last year during Hurricane Matthew.

Blue Cross Blue Shield, KaBOOM! and the Kinston Parks and Recreation department partnered on the project, which will benefit more than 6,000 area children. The park, which was completed Thursday afternoon, includes climbing ropes, slides and a 15-foot stone dragon and is accessible for children with disabilities.

After the flooding from Hurricane Matthew damaged and shut down county parks, the need for a place for children to play along the Riverwalk near the Neuse River became obvious.

"For developing children, a playground is more than just a playground. It's a brain-expander, friend-maker and muscle-builder. Play is central to a child's ability to grow into a productive adult," said Kathy Higgins, vice president of corporate affairs at Blue Cross NC. "It can transform children from sedentary and solitary to physically, mentally and socially active."

The Pearson Park playground, located at 210 West Gordon Street, was designed based on children's drawings created at a special design event in April. It is the 10th built by Blue Cross NC and KaBOOM! with other playgrounds in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Asheville, Goldsboro, and Durham. KaBOOM! has built more than 200 nationally.

"We love for the kids to be as imaginative as possible - we got some unicorns - we got some hot tubs but nestled in those dreams we got traditional playground pieces like swings," KaBOOM! project manager Imani Jackson said. "When they wanted things like treehouses, the adults of the community said lets prioritize by having a lot of climbing pieces and that's what you'll see reflected in this playground."

The playground itself was constructed in essentially six hours on Thursday. This, despite the fact that many of the volunteers had little-to-no prior construction experience.

"We're excited to be building one of the largest playgrounds in the area right here in downtown Kinston. This playground will offer all children the opportunity to play and interact with each other and will further enhance the Riverwalk area as destination for residents and visitors," said Bill Ellis, director, Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department.

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