New neighborhood park opens for East Sanford area residents

Parents say grant-funded project is a welcome, needed addition
Mar. 20, 2013 @ 06:11 PM

Before the grand opening ceremony was even finished, children were climbing up the slide at the Maple Avenue Park.

Sanford city leaders, municipal staff and community members gathered Wednesday at the neighborhood park on the corner of Maple Avenue and Fourth Street to celebrate the opening of East Sanford's fourth park.

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive cut the ribbon at the park, calling the it one of the best in the area.

"Think you all for coming out and taking part in the joy of opening this wonderful park," Olive said. "It was such a short time ago when there were no park areas for kids in East Sanford."

The park is the brainchild of Sanford-Lee County Community Development Manager Karen Kennedy and Sanford General Services Director Tim Shaw, Olive said, and the pair successfully tried out a majority of the playground equipment.

"I am just truly excited residents have this park," Kennedy said. "And I hope they see the excitement the city staff took in bringing the park here."

If there is a concern or a suggestion, residents shouldn't hesitate to contact city staff or their city council representative, Kennedy said.

"This park is for you," she said.

Nearby resident Frank Spruell helped his 4-year-old daughter, Kira, up the slide at the park after the ceremony and said he was glad for the addition.

"We really needed a park, especially for the kids," he said. "There were close to 30 kids here yesterday. It's was a real nice dedication, and the kids really appreciate it."

The park was funded as part of a $980,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for two blocks on Maple Avenue. There was no local grant match by Sanford.

Brenda Gonzalez has brought her two children, including 2-year-old Kenna, to the park several times since it was completed.

"It is such a good place to bring the kids so they won't be stuck in the house," Gonzalez said. "We are glad it's here."

Improving East Sanford has been a priority for city council for more than a decade, and this year's East Sanford Block Party will also be located on Maple Avenue, Olive said. The block party, a day of cleanup, is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13.

With the block cleanup and combined grant efforts, Maple Avenue will show a marked transformation, the mayor said. More residents are willing to let the volunteers paint homes along with the sidewalks and curbing that have been installed on the street.

"Having gone in a few short years from no play areas in East Sanford to four is extremely satisfying," she said.