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Erwin Kiwanis playground honoring former member is turned over to town of Erwin

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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Kristen Allen, mother of twins Rhett and Ryan Allen, said the boys have watched Eugene P. Price Kiwanis Park’s progress over the past five years because their grandfather, Bill Gaines, volunteered often.
“They actually nicknamed it the ‘Papaw Park,’ ” Allen said. “He’s spent a lot of time out here on Saturdays working on it to get it ready. So that’s what they call it. They’ve watched from being a heap of dirt to having a playground. So they have been very interested in it.”
Another nickname, Erwin Kiwanis President Richard Booth said during the park’s dedication to Price, is “Puppy Park” because of its proximity to the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.
“The Kiwanis mission is to serve the children,” Booth said. “This park is designed to do just that.”
Allen said her children’s favorite thing about the park is its location.
“We like the fact that it’s next to the Linear Trail,” Allen said. “We can walk and play. They love to throw rocks into the creek and then walk back over here and play.
“We get exercise on the trail walking as a family, but then we can also spend time here just playing.”
“The kids of the community are very fortunate to have a place like this where they can come and play,” City Recorder Randy Trivette said. “The parents can closely watch the kids as they play on the playground.”
Trivette said the park would have never existed without the Erwin Kiwanis Club’s imagination.
“The Kiwanis do a tremendous amount of work for our community and for our kids,” he said. “There’s a long list. We could be here for hours listing what they do. We are very blessed to have the Kiwanis Club in our community.”
Former Kiwanis park project leader Jim Wozniak, who came up with the initial concept in 2007, said the idea for the park came from stories about two children who had nowhere in the community to play because of special needs unaddressed by existing parks in Erwin.
“The heroes of this really are two children who inspired it,” Wozniak said. “One was a girl who was a toddler and through her father pointed out the need for more equipment for toddlers. Then there was a 9-year-old autistic boy who drove home, just by being himself, the point for special needs equipment. I’m exceedingly thrilled to have been able to partner with all the Kiwanians to make this day happen. It’s a great day.”
Trivette said the town was very willing to assist with the playground project.
“We are happy to have this park,” Trivette said. “It’s a great addition to the Linear Trail and we are excited about it.
“When they approached us with the idea we were more than happy to participate and partner with them on it.”
Trivette said the town contributed to the park’s completion through volunteer work conducted by town employees, which all began in 2009.
“The public works guys poured the concrete and helped assist in the clearing of the land and mowing it,” he said. “This was the town of Erwin’s property that we allowed the Kiwanis to use for the playground. It worked out very well.”
The Kiwanis Club has continued to raise funds to get the project to its current stage – complete. Allen approves the age-appropriateness of the park equipment.
“I feel like all the equipment is pretty safe and it’s age appropriate for them,” she said. “It’s just really beautiful here with all the nature and mountains in the background.
Trivette said that the town was willing to help because there was a need for this type of playground in the community. “We have Fishery Park, but it’s geared and designed for older kids,” he said. “This park is designed for a younger-aged kid. It’s a little more condensed so they can be supervised better. There was a need in our community for a park for special needs and smaller kids.”
Allen said she is able to relax a little on the playground with her sons because it is easier to keep an eye on them at all times.
“Everything is really close together,” she said. “I do like the fact that no matter where you are, you can pretty much see what’s going on. We love the park. We really appreciate the Kiwanis for taking time to do this.”
The park, which was officially handed over by Booth to Trivette on Tuesday, is a monument to the community’s perseverance in providing the youth with a safe place to play.
“It’s a great feeling because it’s a good sense of accomplishment for the Kiwanis Club,” said Trivette. “They’ve worked on this for several years and it’s turned out beyond imagination.”
During the dedication, Booth announced that this event, in which Kiwanis International Kentucky-Tennessee District Gov. Don Ritter was in attendance, was dubbed the adult celebration.
A celebration for children will be held Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Animals from the county shelter will also join in the celebration, to be held on-site at the playground.