The Dream Continues!
In 2002, Kiwanian Darrell Rice had a big dream. As President of the Friends of Warriors Path State Park, he and other members of the Friends organization developed an idea for a playground at Warriors Path State Park in Kingsport, TN. Research into other playground concepts and input from area children led the group to decide to build a Boundless Playground, one that is accessible to children of all abilities. What began as a simple playground costing a few hundred thousand dollars grew to a huge playground costing over $4 million. Talk about a dream!
As the work on the playground advanced into the construction stage, it became clear that Kiwanian Darrell Rice would not be present to see its completion. Diagnosed with cancer, Darrell continued to serve his club and community as long as he had the strength. As Darrell approached the end of his time on earth, the playground team asked him if they could name the playground, “Darrell’s Dream”. He agreed.
In honor of Darrell, his club, the Kiwanis Club of Kingsport, donated $10,000 toward the construction of the Crossroads structure in the center of the playground. General Shale Corporation, a local brick company, donated the special brick needed to construct the Crossroads structure. In addition to their donation, Kiwanis club members also turned out when the call came for volunteers to spread rubber mulch under the play equipment, to landscape areas around the playground and to assemble picnic tables. Over 100 man hours were spent spreading 30 tons of rubber mulch and many, many tons of dirt and gravel. In 2008, the Crossroads structure was honored by receiving the MIT Award for Design.
On Monday, April 23, 2007, Darrell’s Dream came true! The Boundless Playground opened for all the children of the Tri-Cities. At the opening ceremony, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke said, “We are extremely proud to have this extraordinary playground that makes universally accessible play available to children of all ages at Warrior’s Path State Park. I think the public-private partnership that made this project possible, as well as the playground itself, are models that will gain regional if not national attention that will be well deserved. More importantly, no child will have to leave behind support equipment or be otherwise limited in their ability to enjoy this remarkable facility.”
In 2009, Phase 2 of the playground opened with the addition of a Narnia trail, a Braille Interpretive trail and a Wildflower walk. In 2010, Phase 3 added the Anderson tree House. In 2012, Phase 4 brought the Palmer Center Foundation Amphitheater and a Rain Garden (NE Tenn. Master Gardeners).
Fast forward to April 23, 2016, nine years later. Darrell’s club, the Kiwanis Club of Kingsport, continues to honor Darrell’s memory and serve young children in our community. Along with many other community volunteers, club members came out early on Saturday morning to give the Playground its annual spring cleaning. Kiwanis Clubs all over the world were encouraged to participate in “One Day”, acts of service in honor of Kiwanis International's 100th Anniversary. As part of their “One Day” project, Kingsport Kiwanis members washed all of the Playground equipment, pressure washed the picnic and entry pavilions, washed the bathrooms, cleaned the park benches and trash cans and cleared winter trash from the play areas. Club members were ably assisted by members of the Cosmopolitan Kiwanis Club and the Builder's Club at the Kingsport Boys & Girls Club as well as over 170 other community volunteers.
In summer, Darrell’s Dream serves as many as 500 children a day, with many school groups arriving by bus for nature programs and exercise. In 2015, 170,000 people attended the Boundless Playground. Handicapped children are able to fully participate due to the accessible design of the Playground. The Kingsport Kiwanis Club, along with other local volunteer organizations, intend to see that Darrell’s Dream continues to serve young children by participating in spring and fall clean up. Darrell’s Dream continues!