Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the amount of money contributed by the Big Rock Foundation for the Shevans Park renovation. This was a reporting error.
MOREHEAD CITY — One of the city’s most popular parks will soon get a major facelift, with a new playground, a splash pad, handicap-accessible equipment and other features planned for the downtown Shevans Park.
The Morehead City Council approved funds for the park renovation Tuesday during their regular monthly meeting at the municipal building on S. 8th Street, giving city staff the green light to move forward on the project. City Manager Ryan Eggleston said the plan is to remove the existing playground structure in December or January and begin construction on the new playground right away, with an anticipated opening date of Friday, May 1.
In addition to tennis courts, picnic tables and a gazebo, Shevans Park features a large, wooden playground with a castle design Mr. Eggleston said is popular with families throughout Morehead City and the region at large. It was constructed in 1997 and the structure is aging and in need of replacement, Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Riggs said Tuesday.
“It is 22 years old and it looks it,” Mr. Riggs said.
The city is working with the same company that built the existing playground, Ithaca, N.Y.-based Leathers & Associates. Leathers provided two conceptual design options, which Mr. Eggleston said will be presented to local elementary school children and put to a vote to choose between them. Both designs include the same amenities in slightly different orientations.
The new Shevans Park playground will have a design reminiscent of the existing castle structure, but it will be constructed of composite wood, which is combined with plastic and other materials to last longer than traditional wood. Mr. Eggleston said Leathers offers a 50-year warranty on the composite material, so the playground should be able to weather the area’s harsh coastal conditions for years to come.
The playground will also feature amenities like a climbable lighthouse, a boat structure geared toward younger children and a new swing set with American with Disabilities Act-accessible swings. There are also other features to make the playground ADA-compliant so it can be enjoyed by all, Mr. Eggleston said.
“My main thing with this project was that it would be ADA-compliant. There is no place for kids with disabilities to play,” Councilwoman Keri McCann said.
In addition, the park will get a new poured-in-place rubber surface to replace the existing mulch surface. Mr. Riggs said the rubber is safer, more handicap accessible and requires less upkeep than mulch.
The city also plans to build a splash pad on the westernmost portion of Shevans Park. It will consist of several water features with a nautical theme and will have the same poured rubber surface as the rest of the park.
The total playground project cost is estimated at $820,000. Broken down, the playground itself will cost $420,000, the splash pad is estimated at $274,000, the poured rubber surface is $105,000 and demolition will cost about $21,000.
The city already appropriated $300,000 in the current fiscal year budget for the park renovation, and the council Tuesday approved a $370,000 budget transfer for the remaining amount, minus a $150,000 contribution from the Big Rock Foundation. The council directed Mr. Eggleston to aggressively pursue fundraising opportunities to reduce the amount the city has to pay out of pocket for the park.
The city applied for a matching grant through the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, but found out in September it was not selected for the grant. However, Mr. Eggleston said he hopes the Big Rock Foundation’s recent contribution sparks additional charitable donations.
One fundraiser the city plans to carry out is a picket sale, which also helped fund the existing playground. Interested residents and businesses can buy a fence picket that will bear their name to be placed around the perimeter of the park.
Mr. Eggleston said those who bought pickets back in the 90s can begin removing them from the park. He said residents are free to come to the park during daylight hours to remove their picket, and the city will hold onto pickets that haven’t been removed in time for demolition for at least a year. To honor those who bought pickets for the original playground, the city plans to add a post with a scannable barcode containing all 700-plus names.
The Morehead City Council put its full support behind the Shevans Park renovation, but some residents said the pricey project seems unnecessary. David Horton, who won a seat on the city council to replace Councilman Harvey Walker in this year’s municipal election, said during Tuesday’s public comment period he doesn’t think the major renovation is necessary and wondered if the existing playground could be refurbished instead.
Mr. Horton said he spoke with several local contractors who assessed the playground and is in fine shape. However, Mr. Eggleston said based on an assessment by Leathers & Associates and a city staff person, the park is near the end of its life and needs replacement. The council also defended their decision, saying such a popular park needs updating.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.