F.J. Miller Park was opened to the public once more on Monday afternoon, when mayor Jim Diodati cut the red ribbon, officially completing step three of Niagara Falls’ Operation Awesome Playgrounds program.
“We’re investing in youth and active youth,” Diodati said. “Yes, it was expensive. But, I don’t see it as an expense, I see it investment in the youth.”
Construction of the new playground, which began on July 24, cost the city roughly $246k – slightly under the original budget.
Operation Awesome Playgrounds is an initiative put forth by the City of Niagara Falls to renovate 10 neighborhood playgrounds before 2018. The project at F.J. Miller involved demolition and relocation of the existing playgrounds, so they can be better seen from the main road. The project was completed on Sept. 7.
The interactive playground comes equipped with three fully-accessible play areas, is padded with a soft, grass-like padding for added safety and is one of many playgrounds now equipped with Biba – a free, interactive smartphone app which creates games for kids to play at the park.
“For me, the barometer of success is the kids, and every kid is here — even the kids playing catch with the football are playing on the playground,” said Diodati. “It’s like playing in your living room, it’s cushy carpeting. Everything is accessible, the fun colours and all the kids are laughing and smiling.”
“This is truly the gathering place for all the neighborhood.”
Locals flocked by the dozens to watch mayor Diodati present the new playgrounds to the public for the first time.
“I’m just so pleased with how it’s all come together,” said landscape architect David Anthosen. “The playground before used to be tucked away and it was tiny and tired. We were able to bring it forward so that people can see it from the street.”
Anthosen oversaw the project, making sure industry standards were applied. The playground is equipped to with many new features including the sod padding, capable of bracing impacts from falls of over eight feet.
“We were able to put a playground in that has a lot of accessible components to it. So, I’m excited to see it because now it’s a playground that everyone can enjoy,” Anthosen said.
Franklin J. Miller, the park’s namesake, is a former mayor and long-time servant of the City of Niagara Falls. The park was named after the former public servant in 1979, just five years after he served his final term as mayor. Subsequently, the playgrounds were installed in 1995, giving new life to the community – an air the people can breathe for the first time in a while.
“I grew up in this neighborhood, the old park was built when I was eight-years old,” said local resident Melissa McKay.
“To see the park finally replaced is exciting. My daughter is almost a year so we’re excited for her to grow up and play right in her backyard … It’s just nice to see kids playing outside.”
Step four of Operation Awesome Playgrounds will be complete in late September.