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Rotary Playground serves as first finished element of local health park

Staff report

R

oughly 1,000 local volunteers put in nearly 8,000 man hours over the course of seven days this summer constructing Paducah's newest playground.

The Paducah Rotary Playground, located at the corner of 13th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, is a 4,000 square-foot, locally-inspired play area, the first completed part of the Paducah Health Park-in-progress.

"We wanted to do a large project that would be a forward-looking gift to the community," John Williams Jr., Paducah Rotary Club president, said on the last day of the build.

"But I could not have imagined the way it's turned out - the power of so many people coming together to make it happen, sweating in the 95-degree heat and loving every minute of it."

Members of the Paducah Rotary Club began organizing construction of the playground last year, with local volunteers dedicating hours of service to the project over the course of a week at the end of June. The goal was to finish construction of all the play equipment in seven days, from 6:30 a.m., June 20, to 5:15 p.m., June 26, which they accomplished.

Volunteers ages 14 and up came from all walks of the community, including other civic organizations, high school sports programs, church congregations, area businesses, families and individuals. They worked diligently during daylight hours and sometimes into the evenings over the course of the week.

Volunteers from the Rotary clubs in Mayfield, Murray and Marshall County also helped out. Volunteers and other local residents and officials celebrated meeting their goal with a ribbon cutting ceremony the evening of June 26, which included allowing the first group of children to play on the equipment.

Since then, dozens of children have taken advantage of the play area, which incorporates a variety of Paducah-inspired elements, including an entrance reminiscent of the Market House, a river boat play area and countryside barn-inspired roof tops. Play equipment includes rock and rope walls, and a variety of castles, swings, slides and monkey bars.

The health park currently consists of the playground, a large open area and the city's community garden.

Local officials' vision is to create an outdoor play and fitness area with a theme of "healthy living." In addition to the Rotary playground, it will maintain open field space and add a 1/3 mile walking trail, outdoor fitness equipment, and picnic areas.

Plans also aim to expand the community garden. A spray pad and plaza area, obstacle course, public restrooms and housing facing MLK Drive at the end of the park are also part of the future plans.

City officials hope the park will provide a venue for local schools, the parks department, and other agencies to educate the public -- especially local youth -- about proper diet and exercise.

Paducah Parks Services Department Director Mark Thompson said the playground was a great start for the entire park development.

"After this weekend and showing what the community can do and how excited they are about the Rotary playground, I think that's just a great kickoff to the rest of the park amenities," Thompson said following the week-long playground project.

The next step of the health park's development includes grading of the free play field, construction of the walking trail, expansion of the community garden and outdoor fitness equipment installation.

"Paducah is an amazing town; when people come to an agreement on what they want, they're not afraid to get in and get their hands dirty and get the job done," Thompson said.

"Big things are happening and there's more to come."

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