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New Friends at the Playground

By Michelle Medaris, LASN

This overview shows the revitalized Kids Kingdom playground with the original entryway (bottom left) and new play structures.

After the Cumberland River flood washed out the Kids Kingdom playground a community put it back together with help from some new friends. Playgrounds are synonymous with childhood. It takes us to back to a time when making friends was as easy as sitting next to someone in the sandbox. Perhaps it is this feeling that inspired so many to give back to a community that lost its playground. Hendersonville, Tenn., a Nashville suburb was subject to massive flooding in May of 2010 when the Cumberland River flooded.

Children enjoy the playground by trying out one of the new slides by Little Tikes Commercial.

Photo Credits: Little Tikes commercial

Originally built in 1996, the park was a community-wide project, "More than 1,500 local volunteers were involved when we built the original Kids Kingdom- everyone from football teams to DECA clubs to neighborhood families," said Dave LeMarbre, parks director of Hendersonville. "It's a very sentimental part of our community."

Although the area had seen heavy flooding in past years it was nothing compared to the Cumberland River cresting to 52 feet in the spring of 2010. As the waters receded, Tennessee Parks and Recreation assessed the park and decided it was too dangerous for play. It didn't take long for Hendersonville officials to begin their rebuilding campaign. Neighboring businesses such as Wendy's, the Black-Eyed Pea (restaurant) as well as the Nashville Sounds Foundation pitched in to raise money. The local Lowes also made significant contributions with discounted building supplies for flood-damaged equipment.

However, in spite of all the efforts the project was put on hold, short by just $100,000. When country music star Taylor Swift heard about this she stepped in as hometown hero and donated what was needed to complete the project. "We are thrilled that Taylor wanted to support her hometown," says LeMarbre. "It reminds us that this is still a community-built playground."

The little girl is running down a spiral staircase on one of the many play structures designed by CPSI Mid-South Recreation, Inc.

Photo Credit: Little Tikes commercial

When it was time to choose a playground vendor, parks director, LeMarbre chose Little Tikes Commercial. LeMarbe says, "They have a great track record and make prompt visits for basic repairs."

The designers at CPSI Mid-South Recreation, Inc. considered the history of the playground and worked creatively to incorporate the old feel of Kids Kingdom with the new design. Today the playground stands with the original classic castle theme but with a modern twist and updated playground technology. Built from engineered wood fiber, each structure resembles a medieval tower, but with new fun features like vibrant colors and spiral staircases. As the design was carefully considered it was decided that one piece of the original playground should remain, the arched entryway which is now the gateway from past to present at Kids Kingdom.

In the next few weeks, a series of plaques will be hung to commemorate the 1,500 people who helped create the original park. Every individual is named. Soon to join the series of plaques will be 150 clay handprints made by the children who will play at Kids Kingdom in its second generation. LeMarbre was pleased with the result. "These mementos help us remember those who helped in the past and honor the youth who will be the first to enjoy Kids Kingdom all over again."

This is the Kids Kingdom playground before the Cumberland River flood destroyed it in the spring of 2010.
Photo Credit: Chip Curley

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November 18, 2019, 10:39 am PDT

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