Letter: Rebuilding Jones Park Playground

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The rebuilding — or not — of Jones Park Playground with donated funds from the community is going to be decided by City Council June 28. The funds have been available since October 2021 to rebuild. It has been a political football between the county, Asheville City Schools and the city the past seven months. The final decision is up to City Council to provide the necessary long-term maintenance, or it will not get built.

The park functioned for decades primarily as a city park. It is on land owned by ACS. Built as a partnership between the city and ACS back in 1999 with private funds and labor from the community, the city provided maintenance for the first five years, then abandoned this, while continuing to provide maintenance of the Jones Elementary baseball field, also built in the late 1990s.

The cost of yearly maintenance of the baseball field is approximately $25,000, according to the Parks and Recreation director. City staff estimates the cost of maintaining the playground equipment at Tempie Avery Montford Center Complex in Montford at $1,500 per year in years 1-10 and $3,500-$5,000 in years 11-20. We have quotes to install this exact same equipment with the same vendor; maintenance costs should be similar.

If the city can maintain a baseball field at an annual cost of $25,000, used almost exclusively by boys paying to play in organized sports leagues, I sincerely hope we can fund the maintenance of a rebuilt Jones Park Playground, given that this is just $1,500, possibly up to $5,000 per year. The playground was used by all ages, genders and was free for folks of all socioeconomic statuses. It was a destination park used by kids from across the city.

The city has three playgrounds north of Interstate 240. There are a dozen playgrounds maintained by the city below I-240 and above I-40. It’s clear we need to leverage these donated funds from the community to quickly get this playground rebuilt for the kids of Asheville. If you are interested in lending your support, we have an online petition and more information of how to voice your support for getting Jones Park Playground rebuilt at: [avl.mx/bo8].

— David L. Rodgers


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4 thoughts on “Letter: Rebuilding Jones Park Playground

  1. Johnston Jackson

    I lived near that park for a while. It was a nightmare. The visitors of the park parked their cars in the streets of the surrounding neighborhood obstructing access for residents, city curbside services and even the postal service. Those folks were rude and inconsiderate towards the residents of the neighborhood to a shameful degree. Many were the occasions when teens were on that playground after hours, and even after 10 pm without regard for the excessive noise they were making. Ottari Rd is the dragway thoroughfare from Grove Park neighborhood through Grace neighborhood and despite a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour, nearly all traffic on Ottari Rd travels in excess of the posted speed limit. And talk about disruptive noise! Constant screaming from kids was an extremely unpleasant aspect of the park. It was a Huge relief from rude park parkers and excessive noise when the old park was torn down due to severe decay of the play equipment.
    The city is excessively dysfunctional when it comes to planning, signage, and neighborhood infrastructure, not to mention consideration of property owners. Build a park, sure! But put it someplace where it doesn’t wreck havoc on the neighborhood in which it will be built. And don’t forget to build a specifically designated parking lot for the visitors. And put the parking lot for the park/playground immediately adjacent to the park so children and families are not required to cross a thoroughfare where posted speed limits are not enforced, and don’t impose rude, selfish, inconsiderate behaviors on the streets of the surrounding neighborhood.

    • Mike Rains

      I’m sorry for your experience living near the old playground.
      Personally, I love the “sound” of children playing on a playground.
      If parking was inappropriate and dangerous, that can and should be managed with proper signage. Ken Putnam, Director of Transportation should be involved.
      Regarding speeding on Ottari, I don’t see that, but again, that can and should be managed if it is occurring today. APD should be involved.
      Same with improper usage by teens,, etc. I seriously doubt the new playground will have much interest for them.
      Children today need the same outdoor and exercise activities we were afforded growing up.

  2. Mike Rains

    I looked into the Jones Park playground proposed demolition several years back when I first learned of it. We live in the neighborhood but have no younger children. Good friends and neighbors had been heavily involved in the original playground construction project and were disappointed to hear of its planned removal. Theirs and other neighborhood children grew up playing in that great playground.

    As I walk routinely in the neighborhood, I went over and inspected the playground for myself. I saw nothing terribly wrong or dangerous in the design or condition and in fact thought it to be a really cool playground. So I contacted the principal of Jones Elementary to find out why this playground was planned for demolition. She responded that it was deemed unsafe via an inspection and it didn’t meet current playground “standards”.

    If you read the inspection report, you will find that it was terribly “ginned up” with all sorts of petty and insignificant issues/concerns. There was nothing that could not have been resolved in a cost effective manner. My impression of the inspection report was that it was loaded up to justify the removal someone or some entity desired.

    I suspect, but can’t prove that the somewhere in Asheville City Schools a decision was made to remove the playground; that ACS didn’t want to be responsible for the playground, liability, etc. To be sure, the unique and “non-standard” design of the playground (constructed with pressure treated lumber) probably was the deciding factor. People today wig out about all sorts of “dangerous” materials, and what used to be trivial things like kids getting a splinter in their finger. Anyway, I digress.

    The new playground (fully funded by parents in the area) will be up to todays’ “standards” for playground safety. It will probably be pretty boring compared to what the original playground provided. But even boring or “safe” playgrounds are important for our community and City Council needs to get this approved.

    One final note on maintenance costs. which seems to be one of the “sticking points” for approval.

    For years now, Asheville Parks and Rec have provided a “dog poop station” (for lack of a better term) at the Griffing Blvd. Rose Garden Park. This Park (maintained by the city) is really a wide median in the road. It is not used by any other than neighborhood walkers, many with dogs. But here’s the deal. The city continues to fund a Parks and Rec employee servicing that dog poop station on a daily basis rain or shine. They come and restock the poop bags and remove the “deposits” of poop in the trash bin. That poop station is used solely by neighbor hood dog walkers. I know, I walk our dog daily in that area. I do not use the station. We carry our own poop bags and carry them back home to deposit. And I see some neighbors taking a number of bags for their own use later on.

    The bottom line: This is a service that is not necessary. It is solely a convenience because the park is NOT used by anyone except locals in the neighborhood. Those locals can easily handle their own dog poop “management”.

    That “service” is conservatively worth the following: 360 days/year x 1 hour (driving and servicing the station) x 1 employee x $25/hour (don’t forget benefits) = $9,000/year.

    So eliminate this totally unnecessary “poop station” at Griffing Park and you have your maintenance money for the new Jones Playground which I consider to be a much higher priority, as well you should.

    • Robert

      Mike, thanks for all the investigative work. That poop station situation you’ve described is an atrocity and an absurd waste of taxpayer money. Dog owners shouldn’t be allowed to keep pets if they can’t manage to maintain them and keep their own waste bags on hand. The fact that some residents are stealing extra bags for their own personal use while living in 750k (plus) homes is yet another injustice. It may seem small, but it’s not…it’s part of the larger problem in this town where we’re often having all the wrong conversations with all the wrong ‘leaders’ lurching from one crisis to another (many they have created themselves) and rarely solving anything or making wise decisions for our future.

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