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City to spend $10,000 to update each of four city playgrounds

Twelve-year-old Javell Mason swings from a kudzu vine at a city playground marked with graffiti. The Pearl Street park is one of four where the city plans to install new equipment. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[02/12/01] A Laurel Street resident says she is glad the city will soon be replacing the old playground equipment at the neighborhood park named after her late husband.

While most city parks are named for their locations, Ford Yates, nuzzled among 50-year-old homes on Wisteria and Parkside drives, is named for the man who raised money to help build it.

“There used to be children out there all the time,” said Anne Yates, who has lived across from the park for 51 years.

The playground is one of four where the city plans to replace equipment, some more than 40 years old. A contract was awarded last week to J.A. Dawson Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., to install new equipment at the Yates playground and parks on Pearl, Farmer and Eisenhower streets.

Yates said she has been after the city for years to replace the older equipment, but so far the only movement she has seen was two years ago when the city removed a dangerous merry-go-round.

“Some of the older children just don’t have anything to do,” she said.

Replacing the old equipment with a new swing and slide and placing wood chips on the ground will cost about $10,000 for each park, said Sid Beauman, director of the city’s parks and recreation department.

The city’s parks have been exempt from the 1990 federal American With Disabilities Act and other standards because they were built before the law, but as changes are made, all will comply with new regulations.

One of those, which adds expense to the projects, requires 12 inches of wood chips under any equipment from which children can fall. Standards also limit the height of equipment for safety purposes.

Mayor Robert Walker said the city needs to set priorities at the parks to see where the greatest need is and come up with a plan to replace the equipment at a greater rate than four a year.

“I’d like to see all of the playgrounds at all of our parks updated,” Walker said.

During the past four years of the current city administration, playground equipment was replaced at one of the city’s 20 parks. Last year, the equipment at Glenwood Circle was replaced at a cost of $25,000.

“I think that we need to improve all of our parks,” Walker said. “There’s a need for young people in this city to have a variety of things to do.”

The parks and recreation department has six full-time maintenance employees and operates on a budget of $673,000 annually. That budget includes payroll cost for umpires, lifeguards and other part-time employees who work at city parks.