City opens playground at Fort Valley Festival Park

efarlow@macon.comJune 20, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Children from the Boys and Girls Club of Peach County got off their bus and walked toward John Stumbo, mayor of Fort Valley.

“Good morning boys and girls,” he said. “We’ve got a new playground.”

A few minutes later, the children flooded the playground, swinging and climbing on the new equipment.

The grand opening of the playground at Fort Valley Festival Park on Thursday happened thanks to City Council and the Public Works Department, said Stumbo.

“We always had a dream to build a playground closer to where the children are,” said Stumbo. Money from a trust fund left to the city covered most of the more than $50,000 cost, according to a news release.

Public Works Director Larry Brown said the Fort Valley Public Works department built the playground in three days under the supervision of Southern Playgrounds Inc. The playground is certified and safe, Brown said.

“It’s a great thing to have,” said Brown. “You can’t describe the joy these children are having.”

The land where the park is located used to be a federal Superfund site -- an area contaminated by hazardous waste. The Environmental Protection Agency found arsenic in the soil from a pesticide company that used to occupy the land.

“We began a process 15 or 20 years ago of testing the site,” said Stumbo. The city took out the old soil, put in new soil and continued testing until the arsenic was gone.

“My goal was to turn lemons into lemonade,” said Stumbo.

Now, the site hosts the annual Fort Valley Hambone Jam, a barbecue cook off and an annual fall festival.

There are other plans for the park, including a second entrance, a bandstand and bleachers. Stumbo said he wanted to start with the playground, though, because “it’s for the kids.”

The playground is near the center of town and is open every day from 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

To contact writer Emily Farlow, call 744-4225.

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