Playground celebrates 20th anniversary as improvements begin

March 31, 2019

A long weekend some two decades ago to bring to life a real palace of play at Peek Park in Cedartown is coming back around as improvements are planned for a once controversial project.

At the end of last week, workers were at the playground and had it closed off as much-needed mulch was installed around the wooden structure and swing sets, and more is planned for the future according to city officials.

The same company who helped bring the project to life is being sought for help in the opening stages of renovation work, according to City Manager Bill Fann.

He contacted Leathers & Associates, the company that designed and assisted with the original volunteer project. He added that they were planning to send an official from the company this week to look over the structure and space to give the city an assessment and proposal to “get it back in shape.”

The potential for a upgrade and restoration of the playground comes just days ahead of a big anniversary of it’s construction in the late 1990’s, spearheaded by a community volunteer effort over a four day span.

Leslie McFall, who with her friend Carol Ferry, spent more than a year and raised $150,000 in an effort that culminated in hundreds of volunteers from April 14 through April 18, 1999 coming together to bring to life the playground children continue to use today.

McFall, like many who helped in that effort with sons and daughters of their own that got to enjoy the facilities at Peek Park in the years hence, was shocked to think so much time had passed.

She said the efforts began when she was still a newcomer to the community, and wanted to have a place for kids to play like McFall saw built in other places. Her model — one that Leathers & Associates brought all across the country at the time — was based off similar projects already completed in Marietta and on Lookout Mountain in the Chattanooga area.

It wasn’t without local community input before plans went to the Cedartown City Commission at the time.

McFall said Leathers & Associates went to local elementary schools to ask what they’d like to see built in Cedartown and “listened to the kids and what they wanted and had to put it all together.”

“We had all of that done and paid for not knowing whether we were going to have one or not,” she said.

Ahead of construction and approval from the city commission of year’s past, the idea was tabled for months as opposition to the playground was voiced. However, the effort to block the playground only made it grow in popularity and ended up giving McFall more support than they’d ever dreamed of having.

It even became an effort that drew in family members who flew from all corners of the country to come and help with construction when after months of work, the project was near the finish line.

McFall said the 400 to 500 volunteers — which included equipment provided by the Tillery family and services from Trammell Lawn Care and Georgia Power, among many others — worked in three shifts a day for those four days in April to get the playground finished.

“Everyone came together and made it happen,” she said.

She said efforts here ended up helping to get projects in Rome, Rockmart and one in Paulding County completed as well. and the 10 years the volunteer organization agreed to keep up the park ran out in 2009, and McFall turned records over to the city for its care.

McFall said if renovations and upgrades are completed — like a recent donation of a handicapped swing installed to increase accessibility — the playground will continue to serve generations growing up to come.

“It is a part of the park that will last forever if it is taken care of, just like a home,” she said.