Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Mt. Juliet: Playful City USA

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Alyssa McDonough, 5, and Sakura Kik, 4, at Ava's Splash Pad. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

MT. JULIET -- Summer is here, and Mt. Juliet Parks are more than ready for it.

The kids already are frolicking in the cool sprays at Ava’s Splash Pad. And in about two weeks, work will be complete on two new pickleball courts, paving the Farmers’ Market parking lot, and the expansion of the walking trail, according to Parks and Recreation Director Rocky Lee.

All three improvements are being made at Charlie Daniels Park, which is becoming extremely popular, Lee said.

“Annual attendance at events in the park is around 80,000 to 100,000. That’s the reason we built it, so they would come,” he said.

That also is what has earned Mt. Juliet the title Playful City USA for 4 years in a row now in a national competition sponsored by the Humana Foundation.

Mt. Juliet is the most frequent recipient of this award in Tennessee, which this year saw the title go to Mt. Juliet, Nashville, Memphis, Etowah, Oak Ridge, and Sweetwater.

“Our Parks & Rec. Dept. didn’t win Playful City USA for the fourth year in a row for nothin’,” City Manager Kenny Martin pointed out in a recent email.

Pickleball is rapidly becoming the most popular participation sport around, especially among people over 50, said Jim Perrine, pickleball ambassador from Del Webb at Providence.

Perrine not only promotes and plays the game, but will teach it to anyone who wants to learn. The two new courts will allow more people to enjoy the game at Charlie Daniels Park this summer.

Paving the Farmers’ Market parking lot will create a cleaner shelter for the market and a better parking area around it, Lee noted. The market, already in full swing, is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 until 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“The paving will also allow the Farmers’ Market to be used as a pavilion when the market isn’t using the space,” Lee said. Paving trucks arrived Monday evening with hot asphalt ready to begin the work.

The walking trail is going to be a full mile when the new loop around the new Mt. Juliet Police Department building is completed, Lee said. The loop will connect to the existing trail that currently circles the park.

Ava’s Splash Pad, which opened on Memorial Day this year, has added two young people to the park staff as supervisors at the sprinkle-fountain pad.

“The two new summer employees of the park will keep an eye on the children and make sure any spills are cleaned up and the water is treated to keep it pure while the kids play,” Lee said.

The addition of the supervisors is proving to be a big hit with parents at the pad, or at least that’s what some of them said this week as they watched their kids frolicking in the sprays of water.

“This is only our second time here, but we love it,” said Ashley Kik, who brought her 4-year-old daughter Sakura Kik to play at the pad Monday afternoon. “It’s all fenced in, and it has a full-time attendant, so we don’t have to be constantly on them.”

The pad itself also is popular with moms like Heather McDonough, who brought her 5-year-old, Alyssa McDonough.

“It’s a nice alternative to the pool or lake – less messy,” Heather said with a grin. “We love it. She came last year, and we had such a nice time.”

Apparently the bright-colored sprayers in cartoon shapes and rainbow arcs make the water less intimidating even for little ones, according to mom Rachel Spencer, who brought her 2-year-old son Jaden Spencer from Hermitage to attend a party at the pad.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “This little boy had a meltdown last week in the rain, and I was scared he was not going to play. But he’s having a ball. In fact, we’re here for a birthday party, and he’s giving up pizza to play.” 

The next project in the park will be to replace the wood at Planet Playground, Lee said. “That will be the park’s crown jewel,” he added. “When that’s finished, we are about done in Charlie Daniels. Then we’ll be looking for more land.”

New land could allow the city to create another full-scale park, preferably in the north end of town, Lee added.

The city has some small satellite parks at various locations around town, too. One, a 6-acre “bark park” for walking and playing with pets, is located on SE Springdale Drive.

Another is the new 8-acre Jones Family Park on South Mt. Juliet Road, which features a mini Frisbee-golf course and walking trails. It also has a sand volleyball court, and another “bark park” is in the plans for that area.

The third pocket park will be a “passive park,” Lee said. At 11 acres, Robinson Park – the largest little park – will have a walking trail along Stoner Creek with bridges and benches. The area on Old Lebanon Dirt Road will provide a protected wetland where walkers can view wildlife or just relax and read on one of the benches if they wish.

But the improvements are only half of the story, because Charlie Daniels Park will be the site for numerous events planned throughout the summer.

There will be four kids’ day camps: one featuring engineering, a space camp, a mathmagic camp and a crazy chemistry camp. For more information, go to www.cityofmtjuliet.org/parkevents.cfm.

The Arts Alliance of Middle Tennessee also will be offering free entertainment at the Charlie Daniels Park amphitheater once a month for four months. The events will include the Encore Theater Company, The Jazz Alliance, Exit 219 and a Singer/Songwriter Festival. For more information, contact garyrabideau@gmail.com or call the Mt. Juliet Community Center in Charlie Daniels Park at 758-6522.

Free movies will be screened at the park amphitheatre on the first Saturday of each month at dusk. Participants should bring their own chairs or blankets for seating.

And don’t forget: The Mt. Juliet Relay for Life, benefiting the American Cancer Society, is scheduled for Saturday, June 14, at Charlie Daniels; Paws in the Park, featuring adoptable dogs from the Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter, will be held on Saturdya, June 21; and Saturday, July 26, is Splash Day at Ava’s Splash Pad.

Not that every day isn’t, of course.

Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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Ava's Splash Pad, Mt. Juliet Park, summer
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