A playground with unique features for people of all ages and abilities is being built along one of the main gateways to the Wilkesboros.

Town personnel spent weeks hauling red clay dirt in dump trucks to the bottomland site off Oakwoods Road and along Cub Creek. The top few inches of loamy soil, which is less stable than red clay, were first scraped off and hauled away.

The dirt hauled in was compacted and shaped to form the raised bed of Wilkesboro’s universal playground, a temporary identifier until a private donor secures naming rights for this addition to Cub Creek Park.

“We designed this with the idea of it being a site for everyone to recreate together in a community,” said Andrew Carlton, Wilkesboro director of planning and community development.

It will be a place where adults can lie in hammocks and watch their children play or partake in some of the playground’s many features, said Çarlton.

He worked with a consultant and Wilkesboro-based Blue Ridge Environmental Consultants P.A. to design the playground.

Carlton said this raised area, covering about an acre, will be further shaped to create mounds rising 10-12 feet but averaging four to five feet above the original surface.

Some of the playground’s features utilize the varied terrain, but the raised ground will help provide protection when Cub Creek leaves its banks. A drainage system with collection basins, pipes and gravel was installed to also address flooding.

The new playground will consist of “pods” (sections) and will be expanded by adding pods. It utilizes different types of surfaces, including artificial turf, rubber “safety surface,” concrete and real grass.

The western end of the playground will be developed first, with a goal of opening to the public in early spring 2022.

Carlton said the cost of this initial portion of the playground is projected at just shy of $500,000. He said later portions of the playground will be less costly because they involve more natural features.

Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland estimated the overall cost at $750,000 during a recent Wilkes Economic Development Corp. meeting.

Noland also said town officials are excited about the new playground, including its location as a feature along an important gateway to Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro.

He said another “rain garden” detention pond will be constructed to collect storm water runoff and help prevent damage when Cub Creek leaves its banks.

Funding secured so far for the playground includes an N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant of $150,000; the same amount from the town, required as a local match; another $150,000 from the town; $150,000 raised through a campground on the Wilkesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant property during MerleFest; and a $25,000 Health Foundation grant.

Carlton said there are plans to sell sponsorships to other private entities.

Many of the features in the playground’s initial pods were designed and produced by Berliner, a German company with North American headquarters in Greenville, S.C.

These include the “Pentagode” and “Spaceball” rope net-like climbing structures, connected by a rope ladder. They’re designed for children ages 5-12.

Other initial features from Berliner include ground-level mini-trampolines, the see-saw-like “Butterfly” and spinning “Freeride.” There will be different types of slides on a hillside play area and various swings.

Carlton said for people of all ages, the playground will open with a sensory garden with plants that appeal to the five human senses and outdoor musical instruments.

The musical instruments will include:

• various types of drums;

• metal tube chimes;

• “Harmony Flower” chimes;

• “Sansa-Rimba,” which is a blend of the Sansa (thumb-piano) and a Marimba (xylophone) from Africa;

• “Bell Lyre,” consisting of eight graduated stainless-steel bells on a stand, reminiscent of a lyre.

There also are plans for a facility with restrooms and a picnic shelter; natural obstacle course; and an area with concrete game tables, table tennis, chess and a bocce ball court. Other features are also planned.

A walking path will surround the playground.

The town’s application for a PARTF grant said expanding amenities at Cub Creek Park is about more than fun, recreational improvements.

It said these playground features “are part of a greater transformative process occurring in Wilkesboro for creating an engaged, healthy and happy way of life.

“Town officials and staff are eager to create experiences in Cub Creek Park that are accessible and appealing to all individuals.”

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