The children of the Sugarfoot community only had a balance beam and monkey bars at their local park for eight years.
On Wednesday, the renovated park opened with slides, a basketball court and climbing walls.
Alachua County cut the ribbon on the renovation of the first of 24 parks. The renovated park, at 817 SW 64th Terrace, is a pocket park on donated land, which are miniature parks that have most of the attractions a normal park has.
It has temporarily been called the Southwest Advocacy Group playground, also known as SWAG, until its official naming ceremony in March, said Dorothy Benson, a founding member of the group.
The park is set to be named after Mark Hopkins, the brother of the property’s original owner who died from cancer.
“I didn’t think after donating this lot that this is what would be produced,” said Philip Hopkins, the original owner and donor of the park.
About 50 children and 20 residents joined County Commissioners Ken Cornell and Charles Chestnut; Major Latrell Simmons, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office department of operations director; and J.K. Irby, the Alachua clerk of the court, at the ribbon-cutting.
The updated park features picnic tables, a child-sized basketball court and a play structure, which includes multiple slides, monkey bars, climbers and more.
The original park was an add-on to the advocacy group building, Benson said.
The equipment only lasted eight years before the group had to ask the county for help getting it repaired.
Once Charlie Houder heard what the community needed, he got to work providing it, he said.
“The previous park was insufficient for the need,” said Houder, director of Alachua County Parks and Conservation Lands.
Construction began in May and was completed in early February, he said.
It cost about $175,000 and was funded by the Wild Spaces and Public Places voter-approved half-cent sales tax.
“You could tell the children were itching to start playing on the new equipment,” Houder said.
The other 23 parks will be evaluated by Alachua County Parks and Conservation Lands, and will be completed by 2020, Houder said. The parks will receive a face-lift because of the passing of the half-cent sales tax.
Regina Bollen, 21, has lived near SWAG park for about five years. When she heard about it being updated, she was excited for her 4-year-old son Elijah to have a newer place to play, she said.
“This will help out this community,” Bollen said. “As my son has a safe environment to play, then this is worth it.”
Correction: The article and headline has been updated to reflect that Alachua County renovated the parks and cut the ribbon. The Alligator originally reported differently.
Children play and run around the newly renovated Southwest Advocacy Group park, which was opened Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.