The Fort Kid playground off World’s Fair Park Drive reopened Thursday, March 28, after Public Building Authority workers made necessary repairs in response to a citizen complaint and a Knox County Health Department report citing hazards.
The playground will remain open as long as life safety issues for users – including the decaying retaining wall and continued decline of the play structure – do not warrant a closure.
In November, a Health Department inspector cited a number of problems, such as exposed nails, trip hazards and splintered wooden components. PBA over the winter made minor repairs to the 27-year-old City-owned playground.
Many of the wooden components of the Fort Kid playground have aged, and repairs and maintenance of the outdated facility are challenging. Many replacement parts are no longer available. In addition, the original retaining wall that is supporting the play area needs to be replaced, and the site does not meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Long term, the City will be collaborating with stakeholders and exploring partnerships to update the play area and make it ADA accessible for all users.
City officials have met with Beth Waters, who spearheaded the volunteer drive to construct the original playground, and other supporters of Fort Kid to discuss options for replacing the retaining wall and improving the play area. Due to underground utilities and cost factors, the City is focusing on a grassy sloped design as the most feasible option for replacing the wall.
The Knoxville Museum of Art has expressed interest in the redesign of the area and new possibilities that a sloped design might create for public art or arts-related programming.
“The museum faces Fort Kid, so this could be an exciting opportunity to bring these spaces together in such a way that they complement and enhance each other,” said David Butler, Executive Director of the Knoxville Museum of Art. “We are open to partnering on improvements to Fort Kid.”
David Brace, Deputy to the Mayor and the City’s Chief Operating Officer, said the City is excited to work with Fort Kid supporters to discuss options for funding and selecting new equipment to bring Fort Kid up to modern playground standards. He anticipates closing the site again in late 2019 to do additional site work.
“We look forward to partnering with Beth Waters and her team, other Fort Kid enthusiasts and KMA to make improvements to this park,” Brace said. “It’s always been a great amenity, and we want to assure that it continues to be a valued asset for all citizens for many years to come.”