Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 15, 2013

Bullard Kids’ Park set to be built this week

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

BULLARD —  Wanted: Strong arms, a big heart and a lot of energy to help create a one-of-a-kind park for the children of Bullard over the next several days.

Collectively known as the Bullard Kids' Park, volunteers will begin Wednesday working 12-hour days on the project and finish up in time for a 4 p.m. dedication on Sunday.

When the Bullard Rotary Club initially pitched the idea to the local economic development board last June, it was proposed on a sweat-equity basis: Keep costs down by finding 1,200 volunteers to construct the $315,000 playground over a period of several days.

The response, said Rotary President David Detten, “very much surprised me.”

“Over the last few weeks, it's grown like wildfire,” Detten said. “At the first of the year, we only had about 700 volunteers, but now we've got 1,100 to help us.”

Volunteers will create a fantasy playland dreamed up by the children of Bullard and brought to life by Leathers and Associates, an Ithaca, New York-based architectural firm that specializes in playground design using recycled materials.

Bullard Kids' Park will have designated areas for younger and older children, as well as for those with special needs, and among others, will feature attractions like a tree fort, rocket ship, slides, a castle, monkey bars and a rock wall, enclosed by a wooden picket fence bearing names of donors and a tile border with children's handprints on them.

There are also picnic pavilions, restrooms, trees and a parking lot, all located on a 1½-acre tract bordered by FM 2493 and Rather Street, just north of the city's downtown, near the local tennis courts.

It is, said city manager Larry Morgan, an investment that will pay for itself many times over the duration of the  equipment, which is “very, very durable and impervious to just about anything, and easy to maintain.”

“This will make Bullard a destination point. It's not just like a playground you come visit, and after you get there, 30 minutes later, you leave. (Children) will play literally for hours. Then chances are, their families will go to one of the restaurants to eat, or to shop,” he pointed out. “I just think this is really going to get people to come to Bullard.”

Between now and Sunday, however, there's a whole playscape to create.

Volunteers ages 13 and older can contact volunteer coordinator Ashlee Jones at 903-707-2183, or print a volunteer form from the group's Facebook page or www.bullardkidspark.wix.com.

“Even if you're driving by, we'll have something for you to do,” Detten said. “This is just a great community project – all these volunteers will get a little ownership in a project that's for the community of Bullard.”

Of the original $315,000 goal, all but $48,000 has been raised, Morgan said.

Contributions to support the playground are tax deductible. Checks should be made payable to the East Texas Communities Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 913, Bullard, Texas 75757.