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Gainesville parks playgrounds getting an upgrade
Torri Keller walks past the area of Wilshire Trails Park where the old playground has been removed to make way for a new one. - photo by Tom Reed

You might have noticed something’s missing at Gainesville’s most popular park.

But park officials promise that the Wilshire Trails playground will come back next month, better than ever.

“It will be well worth the wait,” said Gainesville Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Julie Butler.

When the new playground is complete, Michael Graham, deputy director of Gainesville’s parks, said other city parks will get a playground facelift, too.

City officials hope to have the Wilshire Trails playground restored in time for the annual butterfly release on May 16.

And when it reopens, Graham said the playground will be twice the size it was before.

It will offer separate play areas for children younger than 5 and for those between 5 and 12, and it will also be encircled by a sidewalk for parents to keep watch of their children while getting a little exercise.

“It’s a mix of traditional and contemporary-type components that kids are liking today,” Graham said.

Graham said the playground renovation is a signal of what’s to come in some of the city’s other parks. Once Wilshire is complete in early May, the playgrounds in Longwood and Desota parks will be replaced.

Graham said he hopes those renovations will be complete by the end of June.

Later in the summer, Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center will get a playground and a trailhead.

Most of the playgrounds at the city’s parks are decades old and in need of an update, Graham said. In November, the parks department moved $325,000 in revenue from impact fees, or fees developers pay for the impact of their development on the city’s services, into its capital projects fund. All of that will be used to replace the playgrounds in the city, Graham said.

The recently removed playground at Wilshire Trails was 22 years old, and others are also older than 20.

“I hope this is just the first phase of starting to replace the 13 playgrounds we have,” said Graham.

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