Cary News

Cary’s new Mills Park playground to attract older children

By 2017, Mills Community Park will have amenities such as a playground, a 30-car parking lot, a restroom and picnic shelter combination building, walking trails and greenway connections.
By 2017, Mills Community Park will have amenities such as a playground, a 30-car parking lot, a restroom and picnic shelter combination building, walking trails and greenway connections. Town of Cary

When Cary town officials sat down to design the second phase of Mills Community Park, they went straight to those they hope will use it the most: 10- to 12-year-olds.

Town staff showed the children pictures of playground features to determine what would make the park more exciting for the older age groups. The result? The children want to feel adventure when they play, said Sarah Alexander, a town landscape architect.

“They liked a lot of rope climbing equipment,” Alexander said. “They liked a sense of danger ... They also liked a sense of getting to some place and having an easy out somewhere else. So you’re not having to climb on top of a rock and then climb back down. You can jump on a slide and you’re there.”

On Nov. 19, the Cary Town Council unanimously approved the second phase concept plan for the park that will be next to Mills Park middle and elementary schools in west Cary. Town staff anticipate construction to begin in summer 2016 with completion expected in summer 2017.

Alexander said the town staff realized that the town’s playgrounds didn’t necessarily serve that age range.

“We indicated that we wanted to try to make this park geared to that age group, as well as younger kids,” Alexander said.

After gathering the comments, the town staff instructed design consultant Stewart Engineering to look into adding more hills to the plan, as well as more opportunities for climbing and rope activities.

The plan also includes amenities such as a playground, a 30-car parking lot, a restroom and picnic shelter combination building, walking trails and greenway connections.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said her 9-year-old daughter, Meredith, had told her that many of Cary’s playgrounds were not interesting to children around her age. Robinson said she took that information to town staff.

“That was the beginning of this,” she said. “I just bring that up, because it was a child’s idea to do something different than what we’ve done with these different playgrounds.”

The second phase is expected to cost the town $1.07 million, which includes design and construction costs. Funding for the project was approved by voters as part of the 2012 community investment bonds referendum.

Town staff also presented a future planning concept for Mills Community Park, which was developed to ensure that the second phase elements would not negatively affect potential features to be built later on, such as a proposed community center.

Two possible facilities were not included in the proposed second phase plan for Mills Community Park: a disc-golf course and a lighted softball field.

Alexander said the staff determined the future park site at Weldon Ridge, off New Hope Church Road, would be a better fit and has the infrastructure to support disc golf. The staff also determined that the budget for the second phase of Mills Community Park would not be sufficient to cover the lighted ball field. It will need to be developed as part of a future phase.

Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon

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