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City parks to see some upgrades

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Families and children may notice extensive upgrades at the city’s parks in the near future thanks to a Parks and Recreation Department initiative aimed at providing the best possible structures.
According to Gary Phillips, new equipment has been ordered to be installed at Cunningham Park and Ralph Stout Park. The price tag would shock people who are used to buying relatively affordable backyard equipment at big-box stores, but the city’s equipment has to be industrial strength since hundreds of children will use it for years to come, and it also has to adhere to rigorous safety standards.
“Playground equipment is unbelievably expensive,” said Phillips. “We have tried to purchase pieces to get the most bang for our buck to replace aging playground structures at the city’s most popular parks.” The city has ordered four pieces including a silo climber and some new see-saws. “The playground equipment process began a couple of years back when we determined some of our playground structures were out of date by today’s standards,” Phillips said.
Another anticipated upgrade will make the restrooms at the municipal pool more usable. While there are working showers available in the restrooms, it has been several years since there was hot water at the pool. Several local leaders were able to secure a grant through the department of health with the support of the County Mayor’s office, to purchase non-skid flooring for the pool areas and bathroom, install hot water to the bathroom’s shower area, and install new ventilation fans in the changing area.
“The public pool in Mountain City is one of the most heavily utilized community assets in the county during the summer months,” said Ashley Davies, MPH, CHES, Healthy Development Coordinator, Tennessee Department of Health, Northeast Regional Health Office, “and the surrounding amenities at the park are used consistently throughout the year. The new playground equipment and updated pool flooring and shower areas will encourage increased physical activity at the pool and playground facility and will also enhance safety and hygiene practices.” According to Angie Stout, Public Health Educator at the Johnson County Health Department, this funding will be a catalyst for future improvements and will open up other city and county funds to be spent on improvements. “Along with the rest of Tennessee, Johnson County deals with high levels of obesity, poverty, and lack of physical activity,” said Stout. “The city pool is a hub for youth recreation and is also the site of water aerobics classes for adults/seniors.” Conversations with the county mayor, the county health educator, and the county health department director determined this location for the project.
“Having a strong Parks and Recreation system in a town the size of Mountain City is vital,” Phillips said. “A strong Parks and Recreation system appeals to families interested in moving to town, and plays a role in the retention of existing residents.”
The natural beauty of the area is a significant draw, and when families ask what there is to do, Mountain City is continuing to meet that need by providing new and improved recreational opportunities.
Many families enjoy the pool and playground equipment at Cunningham Park and Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City. Several local leaders were able to secure a grant through the state department of health with the support of the County Mayor’s office, are planning to purchase some new playground equipment and update the restrooms at the municipal pool.