New nature-themed playground opens at Southland Park

Mayor Linda Gorton, Councilmember Amanda Mays Bledsoe, Lexington Parks & Recreation staff, and neighborhood families today cut a ribbon at Southland Park to officially open a new, unique playground inspired by natural wetlands.

 “As is often the case, challenges present opportunities,” Mayor Linda Gorton said.  “The challenge presented by the need for a new stormwater system here created an opportunity for a new playground design, and educational play features. We know the neighborhood is excited to have a playground back in the park. This unique design cements this playground as a ‘must-visit’ for Lexington families.”

Southland Park has gone through many transformations lately, partly due to the need to develop a new, green infrastructure stormwater system – forcing the old playground, which had been at the park for over 25 years, to be removed. Lexington Parks & Recreation staff worked closely with the Division of Water Quality and Councilmember Amanda Mays Bledsoe to develop a plan to take advantage of the challenge by creating a new playground tied to the headwater stream and wetland areas, allowing visitors to connect with the park through themed playground equipment, artwork, and educational signage.

“This project is the result of collaboration from several areas of the city to do what’s best for the community—provide much needed storm water infrastructure, improved green space, and new playground equipment,” said Councilmember Amanda Mays Bledsoe, whose district includes Southland Park. “It’s a model of what can be done when we look to address multifaceted issues holistically. I’m thrilled with the results thus far and look forward to the final completion of the remaining infrastructure improvements.”

The new playground presented an opportunity for education around native animal, insect, and plant species that can sometimes be overlooked at parks.

Lexington Parks & Recreation Director Monica Conrad said, “Southland Park playground is truly unique and an exciting opportunity to encourage people to explore and observe the world around them, while enjoying the park. These features highlight the many species that call our parks home. You’ll find animal prints and leaf patterns stamped into the path around the playground, insect-themed play features, and lots of fun structures and signs that allow children to both play and learn about the wetlands.”

In addition to the playground, an art feature was installed into the roof’s gable of the shelter nearby, as well as a new walking path and wooden fences. The art feature depicts nature themes tied to the playground and encourages exploration.

The Division of Water Quality worked side-by-side with Parks & Recreation's designers to ensure the new playground fit seamlessly with their project. Community partners from the Southland Park Neighborhood Association and Friends of Wolf Run provided valuable feedback and support throughout the process. Additionally, Kentucky American Water selected this project to support with grant funds, which added the shelter art feature and educational signs.

Parks & Recreation, a division of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, oversees the programming, maintenance, and development of over 100 city parks and natural areas, six pools, five golf courses, community centers, recreational programs, and three arts venues. To find out more, follow @LexKYParks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or sign up for the email newsletter.

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