And 8-year-old Ella Newton gives the new playground equipment at the Pleasant Street site a thumbs-up.
“I really like it,” said the daughter of Don and Shawn, who was at the park for the first time Thursday.
Newton, who was with her grandmother Dianne Stoll, said the playground is kid-friendly and there is enough variety to be inviting for other children. She also said the nearby pavilion is a great place for shade when it’s hot outside.
Before being interviewed, Newton smiled as she swung on a swing with an attached infant- or toddler-sized seat facing the other rider. Her grandmother, Stoll, said Newton told her such a set-up is perfect to swing with her 4-year-old cousin.
Early Thursday afternoon, Norwalk officials celebrated the ribbon cutting for the park.
“This is one of the biggest projects Norwalk has ever had,” Mayor Rob Duncan said. “This is a project that will last many, many years.”
The mayor said he believes the playground is “more user-friendly for the kids” than what was there previously. Just before unveiling the sign for Bicentennial Jaycee Park, Duncan — referring to children playing in the park — told the crowd the youngsters are more interested in having fun than the new sign.
The new playground equipment and nearby pavilion, priced at $150,000, is located in the space previously occupied by four tennis courts. Beside the swingset, playground and pavilion are two pickleball courts and one tennis court.
“There was an allowance within the project for that,” said Norwalk Public Works Director Josh Snyder, referring to the massive lift-station project, worth a total of about $6.5 million.
Beside the pavilion are six parking spaces, four of which are handicapped-accessible.
“There was no public parking on this side of the creek (earlier). That was a big component of what we wanted to accomplish,” Snyder said, while giving the Reflector a sneak peek at the park Thursday morning.
Duncan said he’s excited to know “the Norwalk pickleball community” has a place to play. Several avid players wore matching T-shirts at Thursday’s event. One woman whistled appreciatively and the players clapped in response to the mayor’s comment.
The playground includes an independent climbing feature, which features cargo rope/webbing. The playground itself includes monkey bars, three slides — one of which is tall, curved and covered, a small rope-climb and other climbing apparatus.
“We removed the ‘park closed’ signs last week,” Snyder said.
There are plans to install a concrete ping-pong table and/or a shuffleboard area in the space between the pavilion and the courts. Also forthcoming is a basketball hoop on a half-court on the northeast side of the concrete slab covering the lift station.
Snyder praised two “top-notch companies” — Underground Utilites, Inc. in Monroeville and Mosser Construction in Fremont — for the work they performed on the lift station. The city entered into a contract with the two businesses in October 2015 and work began later that month or in early November.
Before the project started, Snyder said he challenged city officials to add amenities to what would be Bicentennial Jaycee Park — only one of two parks in the city to be on the Norwalk Creek.
“I hope this park will be used by the community for years and years to come,” said Snyder, echoing the sentiment of other city officials at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Joe Lindenberger, superintendent of the Norwalk parks and recreation department, said the city used feedback from public forums about what to include in the park.
“I want to thank the general service department for the work they did,” he added. “We are excited about what we have.”
Norwalk Jaycees President Erin Smetzer unveiled the new park sign with Wally Ritchie, superintendent of the general service department.
“It means a lot to the Jaycees to keep our namesake park and add new amenities,” Smetzer said. “The addition of the pickleball courts and new-surface tennis court are an asset to the families in the community. They should be self-motivated to come over and enjoy it.”