Flower Mound Leader > News
Volunteerism shines as community builds playground
What began as an idea more than seven years ago has ended with tons of smiles from local children.
Flower Mound on Saturday celebrated the completion of Fort Wildflower, a 12,500 square-foot playground that will be one of the components of Heritage Park of Flower Mound, located at the northwest intersection of Garden Ridge Boulevard and Spinks Road.
Volunteers, which at times reached about 400 per day, spent the week of Sept. 11-15 constructing the playground. Full-time volunteers often worked from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.
“It was really impressive to see the number of people who showed up,” said resident Brian Fox, one of the volunteers. “There were some people who took vacation days to do this, and there were moms who tried to get in a few volunteer hours before they had to pick their kids up from school. We had middle school and high school kids helping out. So it was a great mix of people.”
While the official opening won’t take place until later this fall, children participated in a “soft” opening Sept. 15.
Fort Wildflower is divided into two sections. One section is for younger children and includes smaller slides, play houses and other components. Another section is for children a little bit older, and that area includes higher swings, larger slides, etc. The playground also features monkey bars, a fireman’s pole, a cave area and a draw bridge.
“The level of excitement was really high,” Fox said. “It was a thrill to watch them point out their favorite features.”
The nature-themed playground is made from recycled wood fiber products instead of wood.
Another important feature is its accessibility for children of all abilities.
“As a parent, I was really intrigued because it met all ADA requirements,” said Amy Weidner, the fundraising coordinator for the project. “I learned that there was a real focus on that. There were focus groups set up with Lewisville ISD and with parents. I have a son with autism, so I was really interested in the feedback they gave.”
One result was the use of more ramps than many other playgrounds.
“I have friends with children in strollers, so it’s nice to access all parts of the playground and not have to go over the chips,” Weidner said. “I love that there are so many ramps at Fort Wildflower. So many parks just have stairs.”
The town is also looking to raise enough money to eventually replace the wood chip ground product with a pourable surface, similar to a track, so children in strollers or wheelchairs can access each piece of the playground.
Weidner said if enough money is raised for the new surface before the wood chips have reached the end of their life cycle, then they will be used in other parks in town.
While the playground gives children another place to play, it also illustrates how well the community came together. In fact, it was school children that came up with the playground’s name.
Resident Laurie Long said a conversation with her daughter illustrated the impact of having the community come together for a project like this. Long was part of a committee in charge of artwork, and her daughter, Ali, helped with painting and other aspects.
“I was driving home with my daughter, and she asked me if she could continue living in Flower Mound when she got older,” Long said. “I said, ‘Of course you can.’ Then she said she wants to live here so she can take her own children to the playground and show them what she helped build.”
The experience was special to Fox as well. When he was a child, his parents helped build a community-built playground with Leathers and Associates, the company that specializes in community-built playgrounds. Years later, he’s doing the same thing.
“For me, I have a daughter who is one-and-a-half, and I’m building this for her,” Fox said. “That way, when she’s older, she’ll play on it and know that I helped the same way my parents helped build the one I played on.”
Volunteers spent their time constructing the playground, regardless of their level of expertise. Skilled workers and unskilled workers participated with representatives from Leathers and Associates supervising.
Other volunteers and businesses provided food, donated materials and tools and offered child care.
Sponsors helped fund the project. The town’s goal was to raise $150,000 for the project, and to date, the group has raised $116,000.
Individuals and businesses also supported the project by purchasing pickets and bricks for the playground.
Fort Wildflower is one of the components featured in Phase I of Heritage Park. Other Phase I features are trail connections, a picnic pavilion, a pedestrian bridge, restrooms, an amphitheater (the stage and grass seating only), a driveway and three turn lanes.
Phase II features are botanical gardens, a disc golf park, a duck pond, additional pedestrian trails and more.