Fayette County

Want to build a playground? Lexington needs help building Shillito Park play area.

Playgrounds by Leathers

In 1993, hundreds of volunteers helped build the large wooden playground at Lexington’s Shillito Park.

Twenty-six years later, the city is again seeking volunteers to help build a new playground to replace the popular wood structure, with its castles, turrets and bridges.

The new playground will be built over five days from Sept. 18 to 22. Construction experience is not necessary. Volunteers are needed for non-construction activities, such as coordination and food service, as well as building. The city is also looking for skilled trades people to help supervise volunteers, city officials said.

“For more than two decades, Shillito’s unique playground provided the backdrop not only for recreational purposes for thousands of area families and children but also the opportunity to make fond memories,” said Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti, whose district includes Shillito Park off Reynolds Road.

Mossotti said the new playground will have similar design features that made the former playground popular but will use more durable and long-lasting building materials. The design will also be more accessible for adults and children with disabilities.

It will also be much larger. The new play ground is 21,950 square feet. The previous playground structure was 14,700 square feet.

The former wooden playground at Jacobson Park was also constructed in 1993. When Jacobson opened it was the largest playground in Kentucky, featuring 30,000 square feet of slides, swings, turrets, bridges and hiding nooks.

That wooden playground was demolished and a new playground opened in 2018.

From our historical photo blog, KyPhotoArchive.com: Construction of the wooden playground structure at Jacobson Park in Lexington, Oct. 11, 1993. The popular mazelike playground at the Richmond Road park was Lexington’s third creative playground. Picadome Elementary School playground was the first, followed by the Shillito Park project. About 2,500 volunteers contributed to the completion of the playground. When it opened about two weeks later, it was the largest playground n Kentucky, featuring 30,000 square feet of slides, swings, turrets, bridges and hiding nooks. Mark Cornelison Herald-Leader Staff File Photo

Lowe’s, which built the fence and planted trees, provided the only volunteer labor used to build the new Jacobson Park playground.

Some protested when the city first announced it was considering tearing down the two playgrounds in 2015. Those who wanted to keep the playgrounds said the play structures were unique. They encouraged creative play unlike newer playgrounds. But over time, the wooden structures became difficult to repair. The wood also splintered. Many kids with disabilities couldn’t play on them.

The city is working with Element Design and Leathers & Associates, which designed the original playgrounds, to plan the new playground. Design and other costs for the playground are about $500,000, according to parks officials.

Volunteer labor will help save the city about $75,000, said Michelle Kosieniak, the superintendent of planning and design for the city’s parks and recreation department.

“We are in need of many more people who can do basic carpentry but there a lot of other tasks as well that do not require any specific skill sets such as sanding, assembling picnic tables, sweeping, planting trees, raking mulch, helping sign in and even serving food,” Kosieniak said.

Demolition on the current structure has been completed and work has started on the sidewalks.

United Way of the Bluegrass is partnering with the city to help manage volunteer recruitment and sign-ups. Volunteers must be 16 years or older. The build of the playground coincides with the United Way’s annual day of action.

Volunteers can sign up for a few hours or for the entire five days the playground will be constructed, Kosieniak said.

To find out more go to www.lexingtonky.gov/shillito-park-playground-redesign. To volunteer go to uwbg.volunteerhub.com/lp/shillitopark. Those who need help signing up can call 2-1-1.

Artist Kiersten Nash explains how Livestream, a musical public arts project works at the renovated playground at Jacobson Park.