South Park is one of Fuquay-Varina’s biggest and most popular parks, as well as one of the sites targeted for upgrades over the next five years in the town’s $2 million parks plan.
At South Park last Tuesday afternoon – a week after the town approved the parks plan – people of all ages were swinging, playing on the slides, jogging, reading in the grass and talking underneath the shelter.
Many of them said they don’t have any major complaints about the parks’ current status but would welcome any upgrades. In addition to the $2 million for parks projects, the town commissioners approved spending an estimated $5 million on a performing arts center.
The park projects include improving the dugouts and bleachers at Ballentine School Park, adding an amphitheater at Mineral Springs Park and upgrading playgrounds at South Park, Action Park and Honeycutt Park. Officials plan to build a splash pad before the upgrades begin.
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Maria Contreras, 27, was at the park as the nanny of 4-year-old Emma Yanez. Contreras also is expecting her first child in about five months. She said she would like parks to have drinking fountains, an opinion voiced by several others at the park.
She also said she would like to see separate play options for older children.
“When it’s full of big kids, it’s hard for the little ones to play ‘cause they get bumped,” Contreras said.
The town might fix that problem, with plans to build an outdoor basketball court at South Park to complement the indoor courts in the Community Center next door.
But the master plan scrapped plans for a skate park there, with commissioners citing costly estimates to build it. They said some constituents had asked them specifically not to build the skate park.
But 73-year-old Otis McBride, who said he comes to the park nearly every day, said he thinks that’s the wrong decision. McBride said he would like to see a skate park and would favor the town spending more than $2 million on the parks to build one.
“See that kid over there,” McBride said, pointing to a young man riding a trick bike in the parking lot, doing jumps and spins. “They need stuff for teens like him.”
McBride also took exception to the town’s reasoning over not building a pool. Several commissioners said it would be too expensive to build and that many residents already belong to private neighborhood pools.
“It’s easy to say when you have a pool at your own home,” McBride said. “But what about the 10, 20, 30 percent who don’t have that? Not everyone in Fuquay lives in a nice subdivision.”
Contreras, though, said she wasn’t upset by the decision.
“I’m fine with or without, to be honest with you,” she said.
But she also wouldn’t be upset of the town did eventually spend the money to build a pool, especially an indoor one. The New York native said she’d be swimming now if all the neighborhood pools weren’t already closed.
For 4-year-old Emma, it’s not a pool, but a sandbox, that’s at the top of her wish list.
“I like sand,” she said. “I pretend it’s food.”
After Contreras responded with horror, Emma clarified: “I don’t eat it, I just pretend.”
Two others at South Park said they come once a week or more, even though neither lives in town.
Shannon Davis, a 33-year-old Holly Springs resident, and Amber Page, a 24-year-old Coats resident, meet there because it’s halfway between them.
Davis said she would love a splash pad for her young son to play in. She said she’s delighted a splash pad is a top priority for town officials.
“Yay splash pads,” she said.
Page said sshe just wants more swings. She and Davis were taking up two swings, glad there weren’t children around to make them get of. She also would like the playground’s woodchips to be replaced by rubber.
That’s also on the town’s to-do list.
For Otis McBride’s wife, 72-year-old Esther McBride, anything that makes young people at the park happier will rub off on her.
“We work out at the (community center) gym five days a week,” she said. “And then we come out here and read and watch the children.”
Rosa Lake, Esther’s 78-year-old friend, said she wants the track widened since it gets clogged on weekends with families watching baseball.
But even if the track doesn’t get widened, she said she wouldn’t start walking on the greenways, which the town plans to expand in the near future. She’s concerned about her safety on the lower-visibility trails.
“I’ve been walking this park for 20 years,” Lake said. “It can get boring, but it’s safe.”