Wake Ed

Expanded outdoor areas will help Southeast Raleigh families in ‘play deserts’

Walnut Creek Elementary fifth graders Michelle Arzola-Pinto, left, and Emily Sierra-Uriostegui, center, enjoy a break on the playground during recess at their Raleigh school on Dec. 4, 2014.
Walnut Creek Elementary fifth graders Michelle Arzola-Pinto, left, and Emily Sierra-Uriostegui, center, enjoy a break on the playground during recess at their Raleigh school on Dec. 4, 2014. clowenst@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school system and the City of Raleigh agreed Tuesday to jointly provide more play areas for Southeast families who don’t have convenient access to outdoor recreational areas.

The Wake school board and Raleigh City Council both approved an agreement to upgrade the outdoor facilities at Poe and Walnut Creek elementary schools so they can be used by both students and local families. Officials say the partnership will address “play deserts” – where low-income children do not have accessible opportunities to play – that surround the two Southeast Raleigh schools.

”We look forward to seeing those enhancement occur in East Raleigh,” said school board member Keith Sutton.

Scott Payne, assistant director of the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, said the city identified play deserts where people don’t live within a half-mile of a city park. He said the city worked with the school system to identify schools in “resource-limited areas.”

The concept is similar to identifying parts of Southeast Raleigh where residents don’t have convenient access to a grocery store offering healthy foods as “food deserts.”

Poe Elementary is located on Peyton Street near Poole Road. Walnut Creek Elementary is on Sunnybrook Road near Rock Quarry Road.

Raleigh will work over the summer to upgrade each school’s gravel track to an asphalt track, create an outdoor classroom structure and build sidewalk extensions so people can reach the play areas. The outdoor structure is like a picnic shelter.

Raleigh will use a $210,000 grant from the John Rex Endowment to cover all the costs for the project.

The outdoor areas will be open for public use when school is not in session, such as weekends, after-school hours and on school holidays.

Raleigh will provide custodial services during the hours when the areas are in public use. The city will also reimburse the school system for the cost of any damage that occurs during public use.

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