PENDLETON — If you showed up to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Falls Park playground with hopes of being one of the first to play on it, you would have been greatly disappointed.
The perimeter security fence reportedly came down days earlier, and people were playing on it long before the official opening late Friday afternoon.
But the early access didn’t dull the enthusiasm for the occasion, as people of all ages came out to celebrate the new $1.5 million playground, complete with areas designed for different age groups, common areas, musical instruments, and a landscape design incorporating precisely 1,669 plants.
“It’s been a true labor of love,” Park Director Aaron Burris told the crowd, citing Context Design, Fredericks Contractors and park staff as major contributors to the successful completion of the project.
He also said it was the team’s goal to make the park ADA compliant and to include components “that people of all abilities can use.”
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Pendleton Town Council President Marissa Skaggs said the playground “has been a huge undertaking,” and that everyone involved shared the goal of enhancing life for people in town.
The new playground project began after the 2019 tornado, which damaged the old equipment. Designing, figuring out financing, and acquiring and installing the new playground took place the following years, with its expected opening in the spring delayed by unforeseen circumstances, the biggest of which was the discovery of more extensive bedrock that had to be cut to install drainage.
Park Board President Bryan Williams talked about the playground and other park developments, including recent land acquisitions, as representing the commitment people have to the park.
Meanwhile, the public at the ribbon-cutting gave it rave reviews.
“It’s good — it’s definitely an improvement,” said Andrew Johnston, who was there with his family, including 8-year-old Marley, who was running around with friend Stella Allred.
Justin Mann of Pendleton — pushing son Brayton, 7, on a large swing with a couple of other boys — said he likes it a lot.
“I’m glad they’re finally done with it. We’ve been waiting all summer,” Mann said. “We drove by about every day, tracking the progress. The kids were very interested.”
And Brayden Smith, 11, gave it his thumbs up.
“It’s way nicer, it’s very fun — a lot bigger,” he said, taking a break from pushing some friends around on a spinning ride to share his opinion. “There’s a lot more things to do.
“It’s got a lot more space, and I really like that.”