Originally created 04/22/01

Riverwalk's Oglethorpe Park getting a makeover



If you're taking children to Riverwalk Augusta for a spring picnic or class trip, beware: There's nothing but sand at the Oglethorpe Park playground.

The swings, slide, seesaw and other equipment were removed in February.

The playground was outdated, rundown and damaged by vandalism, said Derek Vanover, assistant director of the Augusta-Richmond County Trees and Landscape Department. The equipment, made mostly from thick wood beams, was installed when the riverwalk opened in the late 1980s.

Mr. Vanover said the department hopes to begin installing a new playground in June.

Tosco, the owner of Circle K convenience stores, which acquired Smile Gas from Augusta-based Boardman Petroleum in 1999, has donated $10,000 toward the purchase of the equipment. The city will match that donation and cover whatever additional costs the project requires.

Commercial bids on the playground equipment have been received and are being reviewed by a committee, Mr. Vanover said. The committee is made up of a risk-management expert, employees of the recreation and trees and landscape departments and two community residents. Their recommendation will be forwarded to the Augusta-Richmond County Commission for approval in early May.

The new playground will be adjacent to the former playground area on a flat spot currently occupied by three picnic tables. The former space will become an expanded picnic area.

Mr. Vanover said a soft survey of riverwalk visitors showed that people wanted more picnic tables so that classes visiting Fort Discovery National Science Center or the Augusta Museum of History could eat together there.

The Recreation and Parks Department helped draw up specifications for the new playground. A variety of elements was requested including slides, swinging bridges and climbing towers.

The new equipment will be similar to the type installed at Warren Road Park last year. It will be plastic, so it will be safer, and it will be handicapped-accessible, Mr. Vanover said.

The equipment will be in neutral colors and earth tones to blend into riverwalk's botanical setting, Mr. Vanover said.

Reach Elizabeth Adams at 823-3348 or eadams@augustachronicle.com.