FORT VALLEY -- Children from the Boys and Girls Club of Peach County got off their bus and walked toward Mayor John Stumbo.
“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, Stumbo said.
“We always had a dream to build a playground closer to where the children are,” Stumbo said. 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,” Brown said. “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,” Stumbo said. 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,” Stumbo said.
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.