PICKENS — Located next to the popular Town Creek Trail on Homestead Road, the Playground of Promise is a unique destination spot for families all across the Upstate.
The playground was built in 2001, but the structure that exists today is far grander than what was originally intended.
“This started out as a $35,000 grant that just ended up exploding,” said Recreation Director Cheri Anthony of the Pickens Rec Department. “We had the location and the $35,000 BRICK grant and then Jim Capplan of Cornell Dubilier got involved and said, ‘Let’s make it bigger.’ Julie Capaldi from the United Way helped me write the grant that ended up topping off at $125,000.”
All together, more than 400 volunteers joined forces to install the newly named “Playground of Promise” with the assistance of a team from New Hampshire that specialized in building learning structures.
“It went up in a week,” Anthony said. “And it’s fantastic.”
The playground sports the usual swings and slides, tunnels and turrets, but also features things like a rock climbing wall, zip line and a glider.
“Oh, I remember that glider,” groaned Anthony. “It was so heavy, there were 10 to 12 men out there trying to hoist it up. That was rough.”
Regular maintenance on the park is handled by the rec department.
“Some of the things we need to figure out a better way to display, like the handprint tiles,” said Anthony. “In Anderson, they have this Plexiglas tower thing with similar tiles inside. Something like that might work.”
The majority of the handprint tiles that line the walkway next to the tennis courts are now broken or missing.
“That was a fundraising thing for the park,” said Anthony. “Those parents paid to have their child’s hand print on those tiles and then I found a local woman who glazed and baked them. But what happened to those tiles isn’t just normal wear and tear — that’s vandalism.
“There also used to be these panels along the fence that were painted by local art classes, but those have long since rotted away due to flooding,” she added.
Unfortunately, according to Anthony, the real threat to the playground isn’t the normal wear and tear due to being exposed to the elements. It’s vandalism.
Besides the broken tiles, graffiti marks up much of the equipment including the slides, tunnels and the rock climbing wall and names and dates have been carved into the wooden parts of the structures.
“It’s a shame,” said Ryan Plum who was accompanying his 4-year-old son Jonathan. “This is such a great park. We love to come here. The ball field looks nice and a while ago I remember it being closed for months with bulldozers and everything out here. I thought that they were doing renovations to the park but I’m looking around and I don’t see it. Maybe that was on the (Town Creek) trail.”
Anthony said they need more mulch but it won’t be applied until spring.
“Because of where it’s located, next to the creek, it’s difficult to keep the ground cover in place,” she said. “That’s actually why we laid down the asphalt paths — to try and keep the mulch where it’s supposed to be.”
Despite the flaws in the exterior, the Playground of Promise continues to be popular with residents of Pickens County.
“It just gives it a little more character,” said Plum. “But you know, this is a community playground, maybe the community should band together to help clean it up.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.