New Lon C. Hill playground may open soon

HARLINGEN — The dedication of the first of three all-inclusive playgrounds is set for June 11.

This week, a notice for bids was released to build new restroom facilities at the Amalie L. “Amy” Koppel All-Inclusive Playground at Lon C. Hill Park.

But Parks and Recreation Department officials say kids won’t need to wait until those facilities are finished to start enjoying the playground.

“We’re going to add some sod around the structure, and some fencing,” Javier Mendez, parks and recreation director, said. “We’re not going to wait for the ribbon-cutting.”

The all-inclusive playground at Lon C. Hill was funded with a $425,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and another $100,000 from Harlingen attorney Rollins M. Koppel.

The playground will be named in memory of Koppel’s wife.

The Lon C. Hill playground measures 125 feet by 100 feet, and was manufactured to the city’s specifications by a company called Miracle Playground, which also installed the playground equipment.

Just recently, special safety padding was installed underneath the playground equipment to minimize the danger of falls.

“That’s a resilient material for a fall zone,” said Parks Superintendent Jeff Lyssy as he looked out over the new playground this week as he led a tour of the city’s parks.

“The next step we need to do here in my opinion is to sod it in real good and basically open it,” Lyssy added. “Today we have a bid opening for the construction of the restroom here and the restroom will be on the back right-hand side of that.”

Lyssy said it would take time to construct the restroom but “in the meantime I think it would be a good idea to open the playground up, because it’s ready.”

Behind the new playground, shaded by mature Texas ebony trees, a half-dozen or so new picnic tables have been installed.

“There’s where the blue concrete tables were removed, and you can see now we’ve replaced them with aluminum tables,” he said. “I’ve already seen that area get a lot of use by different groups and schools.”

The Lon C. Hill Park playground is the first of three such all-inclusive playgrounds planned in the city.

Work was proceeding this week on installing all-inclusive playground equipment at Pendleton Park and Victor Park at a cost of $800,000, which will be split between the city and the Harlingen school district.

The total cost for all three playgrounds will be $1.3 million.

All are tailored to include special-needs children in the play areas, and will offer mazes, platforms, slides, swings and more — all of them handicapped-accessible.