Signs don't stop residents from using unfinished Evans Town Center Park

The playground equipment at Evans Town Center Park is complete, but the builder wants families to stop using it until the rest of the park is complete and turned over to the county.

With slides and monkeybars all connected by catwalks and shaded by whimsical blue umbrellas, the new children’s playground at Evans Town Center Park is a tempting destination for families.

It’s so inviting, in fact, that they’ve been ignoring signs warning them to stay out of the playground, even walking across unfinished sidewalks and hoisting their children over locked gates to get in.

“If you ride by, the playground does look finished,” said Brad Riner, the site superintendent for Dabbs Williams General Contractors of Statesboro, Ga., the company building the park. “But it’s not.”

Sitting like an island in a sea of construction, the playground is surrounded by a 4-foot-tall fence with heavy earth-moving equipment, construction workers and landscape crews bustling outside to complete the rest of the 19-acre park.

Columbia County officials and Dabbs Williams representatives huddled Tuesday to look for solutions to trespassers using the playground before the park opens. More signs and barricades will be the likely result, Riner said, along with getting sheriff’s deputies involved.

Premature use of the playground hasn’t been much of an issue during the week, when construction workers on the site can shoo away those who drive in. The weekends, however, have been a recurring problem.

County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he estimated more than 50 people were using the playground on recent weekends, despite caution signs and locked gates.

“The children are just very excited,” County Administrator Scott Johnson said. “Parents were lifting their children over the gates,” then climbing over themselves.

Some of that activity has damaged the fence, Riner said. Because the contractor hasn’t yet turned over the project to the county, the company is on the hook for fixing any such damages.

“I know people are excited and the little kids want to play on it,” Riner said, “but this is still a construction site.”

The approximately $250,000 playground is part of a nearly $8 million park that will include the new Lady Antebellum Pavilion. It is scheduled for completion in early October, with a concert by the namesake country trio scheduled for Oct. 28.

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