Feature Article - August 2013
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Disaster Recovery

Playgrounds & Parks Rebuild Following Wrath of Storms

By Deborah L. Vence

Joplin's Playgrounds

Cunningham Park, Garvin Park and Parr Hill Park in Joplin, Mo., were damaged severely following an EF5 tornado that ripped through the city on May 22, 2011, causing more than $2 billion in damage.

But, since then, all of the parks have been renovated or have seen vast improvements.

One of the first parks to be restored, "Cunningham Park, especially, was the oldest park in our area, and now it's a destination location," said Chris Cotten, director of Joplin Parks and Recreation.

To date, three new playgrounds have been installed at Cunningham Park. Cotten said that the Monett, Mo.-based playground manufacturer that installed the playgrounds was "extremely diligent about helping Joplin recover from the storm."

Designed to accommodate more children, up to 190, the playgrounds are designed for children of various ages, with a smaller playground available for 2- to 5-year-olds, and the larger playground for 5- to12-year-olds.

To boot, the new playsystem has multiple levels, with many play activities and a total of six slides. Two of those slides are more than 14 feet high.

"We found it ironic that [after the tornado] it was just the playground that was standing," Cotten said, adding that the playground area, prior to the tornado, wasn't overly busy. But, now, it attracts about 1,500 to 2,000 people a day. "The area where the original playground stood, that is now a pond, a memorial to those children we lost in the storm."

Most recently, Parr Hill Park reopened in early July following renovations. New features of Parr Hill Park include an off-leash dog park and a new splashpad, ultimately the main attraction. Parr Hill is the last city park in Joplin to reopen after the tornado, but it has twice as many features as before.

For example, prior to the tornado, only a single shelter and playground existed on the site, with visitors having to park on the street.

Today, along with the splashpad and dog park, Parr Hill reportedly has three shelters, three playgrounds and off-street parking.

Lastly, reports have indicated that improvements to Garvin Park include playground equipment that has been repaired and the shelter that has been reroofed.