The Christmas season is coming early this year as new playground equipment for the boys and girls of Falls Church will be unveiled at Cherry Hill Park in December.
A new swing set and monkey bars are just what the children ordered on their wish lists when they drew pictures and talked and used stickers to show adults in the city’s recreation and parks department what they wanted on the playground.
And their wishes will come true.
The department visited city schools to talk with students said Danny Schlitt, the director of recreation and parks for Falls Church.
Plus, city officials spent hours discussing park needs with parents and others to produce the best new additions for Falls Church’s “crown jewel” of parks built for the community, Schlitt said.
“We wanted to find out what equipment would be the most fun,” he said in a telephone interview. “The biggest ask was for an extra swing set and monkey bars and equipment for older children,” Schlitt said. And something with a “little more wow” factor.
Rather than sleek contemporary designs which could accommodate fewer children, residents wanted equipment where more children could play.
There’s even a “mama and child” swing, Schlitt said.
Charley O’Hara has been a member of the city’s Recreation and Park Advisory Board since 1990 and is its “chair” once again He said the new equipment is “a beautiful addition” to Cherry Hill Park.
“It’s been a long process with lots of community involvement. We were looking to maximize play and open space, to accommodate the most needs and desires of multiple age groups.” Recreation and parks “did a great job” obtaining opinions from all age groups, O’Hara said.
Due to age, illness and proximity to old equipment and the exposure of tree roots once the soil is shifted, Schlitt said the city’s arborist and greens manager recommended the removal of some park trees.
Two years ago the city began working “to make Cherry Hill our main ADA [Americans for Disabilities Act] compliant park which was real important to the community,” Schlitt said, but Falls Church had been planning renovations long before 2015.
In 2003 the City Council approved the Park Master Plan which details improvements for Cherry Hill which come in bits and pieces. (Falls Church has 14 parks plus the school parks.)
The new equipment is not the end of renovation for Cherry Hill; far from it. Schlitt said Cherry Hill has no timeline for completion of its total makeover, but the new additions should be ready for Santa to come down the sliding board in the next six to eight weeks.
The new equipment and installation will cost between $300,000 and $325,000, Schlitt estimated, which is coming from the city’s Capital Improvement Program.
“The staff has kept up with the boring stuff, paperwork, red tape, boards and committees while the community has built the park. And Public Works helped us.”
Cherry Hill Park “is kind of unique in all of its uses,” Schlitt said. “It’s lots more than just a playground. It’s the home of special events, summer programs, day to day enjoyment, concerts. We use the park a lot and want to maintain its integrity.”
Cherry’s Hill’s website says the purpose of the project is “to replace outdated equipment while also making it [the park] accessible.”
Ribbon-cutting is set for sometime in December, just in the St. Nick-olas of time before Santa begins his world tour. Cherry Hill Park occupies 10.2 acres at 312 Park Avenue beside City Hall and across the street from the Mary Riley Styles Public Library. The builder is Cunningham Recreation, Charlotte, N.C. with offices in Maryland and Illinois.