By Riley Gentry, Staff Writer–
The Pumpkin Patch Playground, tucked away behind the Walden Town Hall on top of Signal Mountain, offers a unique pumpkin-themed play experience for kids, parents and the community, as a whole, to enjoy.
The completely wooden structured playground features slides, bridges, zip lines, swings and forts that cover the near two-acre area. Painted pumpkins are all over the playground which give the place its distinctive name.
The playground was built in the summer of 1994 for the enjoyment of the community. It is open from sunup to sundown daily and designed for children 12 and under.
Four years ago, a re-grow campaign was established to renovate the dilapidated playground.
From the success of the campaign came a non-profit, which was set up by the town of Walden to assist the community in raising money to keep up with the expenses for maintaining the original wooden finish of the playground.
Following the fundraiser, the responsibility of the playground was passed from Dr. Jane Jones, chairman of building the playground, to John Barlew, president of the newly-established non-profit.
Once the non-profit became official, fundraisers were planned that helped earn around $300,000 to go toward the playground renovations.
Barlew said he wanted to get involved with the playground because he was tired of seeing the fundraising money going toward paying contractors to do the work that community volunteers could be doing.
“I thought this would be a good way to get past all the political stuff and drama of the community and get everyone together to rebuild this playground,” said Barlew.
Barlew said the main purpose of the non-profit is to be a “communication liaison between all the residents, the users of the playground and the town hall and then the upkeep as well.”
The playground runs solely on donations from community members or sponsors. People can donate through their website or by purchasing a brick, in which names are carved into and placed in the playground area.
This fall the playground is in the works of hosting a donation-only movie night that will feature a showing of the movie Frozen in preparation of Frozen 2 coming out soon after.
Also, Barlew mentioned an event more fitting for adults coming this fall that would be “something like a wine tasting.”
Barlew said a lot of the people who come to the playground aren’t local residents but people from out of town.
He also added that he has received letters or emails from people as far as North Carolina and Alabama saying how much they enjoyed the playground.
Caitlin Huffman from East Ridge, Tennessee, brought her 3-year-old daughter, Olive Huffman, to experience the playground for the first time.
She said she heard about the playground via word of mouth from other moms and saw pictures on Google Maps that spiked her interest even more because of how “impressive” the playground looked.
“She’s having a ton of fun. I feel like it’s safe enough that I don’t have to stay on top of her and its shaded so that’s nice,” said Huffman of her experience at the playground.
Huffman also added that, “We could be here for hours and at other playgrounds[Olive] could only last an hour, but here there is just so much to do.”
Huffman said that regardless of the 30-minute drive from her home she would “totally come again.”
Volunteers are always welcome to help at the playground as they are constantly doing maintenance to keep the park in pristine condition.
To find out more about the Pumpkin Patch Playground or to donate visit: https://www.facebook.com/pumpkinpatchplayground