The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

July 3, 2014

Officials unveil new ‘big toy’ at New River Park

High spirits, sunshine and blue skies made for a perfect summer day Thursday at New River Park, where Beckley Mayor Bill O’Brien, Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ellen Taylor and others dedicated a new piece “big toy” on the playground.

“It’s an honor to be dedicating this wonderful set of equipment here,” said O’Brien, holding his scissors. “The kids are going to love it.”

A festive red ribbon was cut in several places by various members of the Chamber and volunteers from its Raleigh County Make It Shine Committee, including Mac’s Toy Fund President Dawn Dayton; Beckley Area Foundation Executive Director Susan Landis; Margaret O’Neal, executive director of United Way of Southern West Virginia; Sherrie Hunter, co-chair of the Make It Shine Committee, Cindy Worley, Kenny and Marcia Dunlap and several others.

“They’re all partners in this effort,” Taylor said of Raleigh County Make It Shine (RCMS), BAF, Mac’s Toy Fund, the Carter Family Foundation, the City of Beckley and other organizations involved in the project.

The Dunlaps’ visiting grandchildren, Molly, 6, Mitchell, 5, and 3-year-old Meredith Dunlap, all of the Huntington area, wasted no time in trying out the new equipment.

“I like it,” Molly announced, adding that “the screws” for skipping were her favorite.

Mitchell pronounced the rock-climbing wall the best feature.

“And you can go under it,” he informed reporters.

Meredith enjoyed “the two slides,” she said.

Designed by architect Bill Mechnick of Landscape Design in Charlottesville, Va., the big toy features a rock-climbing wall, slides, monkey bars and “screws” in the ground for hopping. It’s the first piece of a community effort to beautify the park for tourists and for locals.

BAF’s Landis reported the new playground, located adjacent to the pool concession building, started as a vision of Make It Shine. BAF, the Carter Foundation and Mac’s Toy Fund donated monies to purchase the equipment, and BAF donated more money for the building of the toy.

Dawn Dayton, president of Mac’s and a member of the RCMS committee, said the 80-year-old Mac’s organization focuses primarily on collecting and distributing toys for needy children at Christmas.

Mac’s board members decided to use surplus funds to give Beckley children the summertime gift of the new playground.

“It’s important that they get out in the fresh air,” she said, adding that the park is a free recreation that the children may enjoy. “This was a good idea, we thought, to help children have a nice, safe place to play.”

Landis added that Mechnick did much of the work as a gift and that City of Beckley came on board with workers who prepared the site and assembled the equipment.

Landis added that plans are also in place to add picnic tables to the area of the park close to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and to build additional playground equipment across from the pool.

Plans are also in place to build a deck with umbrella tables across from the concession stand building and to change the fence around the pool so that parents who are supervising their kids may have some shaded areas while still being inside the fenced pool area.

Umbrella tables are on the horizon for the pool area, too, she said.

Hunter, education director of the Raleigh Solid Waste Authority, said her organization will be partnering to create a “state of the art” rain garden for the hilly area of the park.

A beautification and renovation plan is under way, but a timetable has not yet been set, Landis said.

A renovated New River Park isn’t just good for locals who enjoy the pool, playground and trails, but it also sends a positive message to tourists who are visiting the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine at the park, Landis reported.

“When tourists come in, we want to project a good picture of our community,” said Taylor.

The event was organized by Joe Guffy, information coordinator for the Chamber.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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