Scrapers are trundling over Lea McKeighan Park at Douglas and Chipman Road grading the park for renovations to include a walking trail and a signature playground.
It will feature a 35-foot-tall rope pyramid and climbing rocks to give children thrills and exercise.
A exhibit will recall thousands of youths that played baseball at the park when it was prominent as a sports venue before the construction of Legacy Park.
“I’m really excited about it,” Park Board President Marly McMillen said. “The way it was before was great. The new Lea McKeighan will be more attractive to so many more people... It’s a sign of a strong community that parks can evolve to meet the needs of the community.”
The playground, for toddlers to 12- or 13- year-old children, will be designed to encourage exercise and adventure.
The pyramid of ropes and netting will have the feel of climbing up a sailing vessel, said parks administrator Tom Lovell. It’s design is that if a child falls, the farthest they can drop is five feet before being caught by netting. It gives the feel of “high risk” but actually low risk, he said.
“It puts you up in the air and kids seem to like to do that,” Lovell said. “I think it will be a community-wide destination.”
The $1.8 million project is mostly financed by the parks sales tax.
The playground also will have zip lines, climbing rocks and traditional swings, and open areas where families can play baseball or soccer.
The parking lot will direct its run-off to a reflecting pond, helping make it a “green” project.
Also there will be a commemorative area that explains the history of the land, which once belonged to Dr. Pleasant Lea who was killed confronting Yankee soldiers. Lovell said that when demolition was just starting on the poles, backstops and bleachers last year, there was an older gentleman setting in the bleachers.
“I’m just sitting here,” the man said. “I can see and hear the sounds of my kids and grand kids playing.”
As a nod to the baseball fields, there will be bronze baseball monolith with interpretive signs talking about baseball teams and players and activities over the years.
Construction of the south park and playground should be finished by June or July, but with landscaping probably extending to October, Lovell said.
Lea McKeighan is about 21 acres, bisected by Chipman Road and each section of the park is getting work done. Already finished is a skate park on the north side. More volleyball courts are coming on the north next year, as well as more challenging climbing boulders and zip lines for older users.
Backstops and baseball fields on the south side were removed last year as part of the renovation. The organized youth sports venues now are at Legacy Park.