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Playground marks Rotary Club's latest commitment to park

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 06:47 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington Rotary Club got a first-hand look at the improvements at Rotary Park on Monday during a special picnic-style meeting at the East End park.

The group gathered there to cut the ribbon on a new playground at the park, which was completed three weeks ago and funded through the Huntington Rotary Club, the Huntington Foundation and the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District.

The $60,000, handicapped-accessible playground replaces 33-year-old timber equipment, said Kevin Brady, executive director of the park district. It features full-sized and tots-sized swings, slides, climbing and spinning apparatuses, monkey bars and more, all on a surface covered with engineered wood fiber, or "expensive mulch" used for safety purposes, Brady said.

The playground was manufactured by Play World Systems and built by Service Supply.

The timber from the old playground will be used in the landscaping, said Frank Hanshaw, chairman of the Rotary Club's Rotary Park Committee, who said he helped install that timber playground more than three decades ago.

Through ongoing fundraising efforts, the Rotary Club has helped raise $400,000 over the past 20 years for the park that carries the club name, Hanshaw said. The picnic shelter was the most recent project it helped fund, before the playground.

Jim McClelland, current president of the club and past executive director of the park district, said the business community and Rotary Club are longtime supporters of the park district, going back to the 1920s.

"Quite frankly, the park system would not be the same if it had not been for Rotary," he said.

Brady said the new playground is part of an ongoing effort to spruce up the park, which in decades past developed a seedy reputation. Coming up: the addition of a third disc golf course, which would make Rotary Park one of just a handful of parks in the country to have three courses.

The park district also is looking into developing a Cyclocross course, which would include a 1.5 to 2-mile course with mud, gravel, sand and pavement and other manmade obstacles, such as stairs to climb while carrying your bike. It's a sport that's gaining steam in the United States, he said. Cyclocross enthusiasts use road bikes with tread on the tires on the courses, he said.

"It's a fall and winter sport," he said. "The worse the conditions, the better. There are 135 acres up here. We have all kinds of hiking and biking trails up here, so those will be used."

At Monday's meeting, the Rotary also got an update on the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH) from Charles Holley, executive director of development for the city of Huntington. Expected to eventually connect 63 miles in Huntington, the on-road and off-road trail system was slow getting started in terms of funds collected and government approvals granted, but its first phase is underway with projects in Harveytown, Guyandotte and the West End flood wall. Other areas involving less construction but signs and improvements to connect the PATH include 4th Avenue, Spring Hill Cemetery, Harris Riverfront Park and others.

Holley said it will take several years for 63 miles of PATH to be completed, but a 26-mile loop should be complete in upcoming years.

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