Children on the city’s south side have a new option for play.
The City of Hobbs Parks Department recently completed installation of new playground equipment at the Washington Heights Park on East Marland Street near Booker T. Washington School at a cost of about $55,000.
The new equipment represents the start of an ongoing project to upgrade playgrounds at several parks around the city, said Plaucido Ramirez, city construction supervisor.
New equipment is planned for Heizer Park on East Stanolind Road and Clover Park on West Central Avenue, he said. Major renovations are also in the plans for Charlie Brown Park on East Dunnam and Snyder Park on East Snyder.
Washington Heights “is the start of what we’re doing,” Ramirez said. “We already have playgrounds there, but it’s time we start replacing some of the playgrounds.”
City staff began planning the Washington Heights project about a year ago, he said. It’s been about a decade since any significant work was done at the park.
The new equipment replaces what Ramirez said “wasn’t much of a playground. An exercise dome and three spinners was all we had in there.”
The new playground features swings, spinners, and a climbing apparatus complete with slides, all geared toward younger children. It also has something Ramirez said no other park in Hobbs has right now — a teeter-totter.
Hobbs City Commissioner Larron Fields, whose district includes Washington Heights Park and the nearby Booker T. Washington Park, said the new playground is a welcome addition to the area.
“I’m so pleased and thankful (the city) has put that down there,” Fields said. “I think it was greatly needed for our children. It’s a great addition.”
Booker T. Washington Park, located across the street to the west of Washington Heights, already had a large playground, geared more toward older children, Fields and Ramirez said. The new equipment at Washington Heights is scaled down and more suitable for younger children in the community.
“That’s a nice compliment to the bigger playground,” Fields said. “And with the soccer practice field (at Washington Heights), we’ll have kids from all over the city come to this park. It’s good for kids from all the (commission) districts.”
District 4 Commissioner Joe Calderon, whose district abuts Fields’ to the west, agreed. He said the new playground was a long time coming but believes all areas of the city work well together.
“Anything we can do for the kids,” Calderon said. “It’s all the pieces of the pie — it’s not specifically for the districts. We try to put things together for the city as a whole.”
City staff routinely inspect local playgrounds, in part to determine if and when equipment needs to be replaced, Ramirez said. Safety is a major concern when looking at the equipment, he said — but fun for the kids is also taken into consideration.
“It’s a little bit of both,” Ramirez said. “We want to make sure everything we have in Hobbs is available for the kids. But the first priority is safety.”
And playground designs have changed since the old days of metal equipment standing on concrete or asphalt. Metal is, in fact, a thing of the past, replaced by high-strength plastics that are definitely more user friendly.
“We used to have slides made of metal, but they get really hot,” Ramirez said. “The playgrounds that are coming out are more geared to kids doing more exercising, but they’re a lot safer. And we have all kinds of swings (in Hobbs parks).
“We can’t get rid of them, they’re so much in demand,” he said. “We’ve taken out swings in some locations as we’ve actually got complaints.”
Along with fun, there’s a little bit of a learning component with modern playgrounds. Today’s equipment features counting block and more that stimulate a child’s mind, along with their body, Ramirez said.
“Safety is still high priority,” he said. “Playgrounds utilize more area now as far as to have more features, more playful features, especially for the younger kids.
“With all the features they have, it’s more enjoyable,” Ramirez said. “All the little knick-knacks they have.”