Three-year-old Nathaniel Hollie spent Saturday morning telling Baton Rouge parks and recreation officials his favorite forms of play, along with many other children of all ages at the Gardere Initiative’s headquarters on Ned Avenue.
BREC Assistant Director Diane Drake passed out radio-controlled voting remotes to groups of 10 children and parents at a time, while BREC’s Vice President of Planning Reed Richard went through a presentation on play structures built for rocking, jumping, balancing, sliding, climbing and swinging.
“It looks like swinging is universally liked,” Richard said as he waited for the first group to exit and the second group to come in. The results of the survey will be taken into consideration when planning the design of a new playground that will be built in the coming months at Hartley-Vey Park, just a few steps away from the Gardere Initiative’s offices.
The playground project is part of a larger park renovation being funded by two grants, one from Kaboom, an organization that funds play structures in areas without easy access to playgrounds, and a second from Dr Pepper/Snapple, said Cheryl Michelet, director of communications for the parish parks commission. Both grants total $15,000, she said, and, like a similar playground project at Flannery Road Park built in 2012, will include both community input on design and community volunteers to help prepare the grounds for the play structures.
Kaboom also funded the Flannery Road project, in partnership with Humana.
The event included a Black History Neighborhood Art Project, said Murelle Harrison with the Gardere Initiative, which gave children the opportunity to create art pieces using pictures and quotes from prominent black Americans.
The chance to celebrate black history and participate in decisions that will determine the future of the Gardere park is part of what brought members of the Baton Rouge Chapter of Jack and Jill of America to the event.
Jack and Jill is an organization of parents who work together to provide unique social and cultural experiences for their children.
The community involvement will continue, Michelet said, with a project April 6 to paint decorative tiles that will be used on the playground, and a Build Day on June 6, in which the entire community is invited to work with BREC team members to construct the playground in just one day.
“We wanted to get the project done before school is out for the year,” Michelet said.