It hasn’t been easy but the project to renovate and expand the public playground at the Armfield Civic and Recreation Center will come to a triumphant conclusion on Saturday morning, with a grand opening celebration scheduled to begin at 11.
The project, named A Place to Play – Pilot Mountain, has been driven by a group of parents and community members, with the Armfield Center’s support, seeking to revitalize the playground which had, after two-and-a-half decades of service, fallen into extreme disrepair.
The project began in January of 2019 when a playground committee began to meet. A fundraising drive was soon launched on the opening day of the East Surry Little League. Saturday’s celebration will again coincide with the East Surry Little League opening day, two years after funds began to be raised.
A rain date for the celebration will be April 17 at 11 a.m.
“This was certainly not the way we had planned it,” said playground committee member Jennifer Slate. “We wanted to have a community build with everyone having a chance to get involved in the hands-on work, but with the pandemic, it couldn’t happen. But even with the pandemic, the project was able to be completed. Our grand opening has also been delayed but our community has already been able to start enjoying their new playground.”
The playground was initially reopened to public use in early September of last year.
The planned community build was replaced by the efforts of a smaller group of volunteers and the Armfield Center ground crew, working sporadically as mandates allowed in order to push the project forward to completion.
Before the new equipment could be ordered, however, funds had to be raised for its purchase. Again, that was accomplished through the support of a diversity of segments from throughout the community.
“This was made possible because of the generous support of our residents, business leaders, our families and children, our town and our county,” Slate said.
Armfield Center Director Leah Tunstall pointed to another important and unexpected component of fundraising that had played a vital role in the project’s success.
“The Dewey’s Holiday Pop-Up Store in downtown Pilot Mountain helped to put us over the top,” Tunstall said. “It allowed us to order the equipment and move forward. Thirty-five percent of everything sold went to our group. It’s an amazing thing to be able to offer that to Pilot Mountain and to this community effort.”
Overall, $119,000 was raised for the new playground. According to Tunstall, equipment costs totaled $102,449.07. This included a discount earned by workers assembling the equipment with trained oversight. Other expenses included but were not limited to mulch, benches, assembly supplies and fencing.
“I’m so proud of this playground for our community,” Tunstall said. “It looks incredible and it’s a huge hit for the kids. I knew we were missing this but I didn’t realize how much.”
“At first, I knew it was needed but didn’t really think it was for my kids who are older now,” Slate said. “But they’ve learned so much through this. It’s been a life lesson, seeing a need and working with like-minded people to make it happen. They wanted to help and they’ve been a part of this every step of the way.
“Now, when I look at this I feel relief, pride and excitement. It makes my heart full to know we’ve been able to do this as a community. It’s more than a playground, it’s about our community. This will help us to grow as we attract and retain families. It’s a real moment of pride in our community and what it has accomplished.”