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The City Journals

Wild West Jordan Playground is no more; new structure to be built

Dec 11, 2018 11:24AM ● By Erin Dixon

Weather-worn play equipment, comparing 2005 to 2018. (Courtesy West Jordan city)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Fourteen years ago, 6,000 community members joined together to build a tremendous playground. Named the Wild West Jordan Playground, thousands of children enjoyed it. The intense play, as well as fluctuating weather, caused extensive damage and wear to the structure. It was demolished in November this year. 

West Jordan released an official statement that the playground has “been ‘loved to death.’”

Before demolition, West Jordan city leaders held a public meeting to inform the public of the need to remove the playground. There was extensive damage throughout the structure, which meant the playground was no longer safe for play. 

Melissa Johnson, a community member and former West Jordan council member and mayor, contributed extensively to the project. At the time of the playground’s construction, she functioned on the publicity and fundraising committee, then later as construction captain. 

“I got to use a hammer and nails and actually put it together,” she said. “Along with my five children, who at the time ranged in age from 3 to 11, we served together on this project, and it brought a lot of people in the community together. It was truly a labor of love.”

“It’s time for us to replace it with something that’s more modern,” Johnson said. 

Future plans

The new structure is still in the planning stages. City Manager David Brickey gave ideas of what the city intends to put in its place. 

“The city and the city council wants to design something that allows all children of all abilities to use all their senses to explore and play—something similar to what you currently see at the Sierra Newbold playground,” Brickey said. “We want the new park to be everything the old park was and a little bit more.” 

Construction is projected to take place between next February and April . 

“We’re shooting for May 31 for when we’ll be opening for the new playground,” Brickey said. 

The city’s official statement also included financial information about the demolition. 

“Knowing how beloved this iconic feature is within the community as well as its history as a community-funded and built project, city officials hired contractors to complete a playground assessment and a safety audit. They concluded that the most fiscally responsible and safest option for children would be to rebuild the playground with modern materials and an all-abilities-friendly design.” 

Renovations alone to the existing structure would have cost upwards of $500,000, which did not include consistent maintenance costs. 

The money for the structure will come from the existing budget from the Parks Improvement Fund. The estimated cost for the new structure is between $750,000 and $800,000. 

Beloved by many

Many people used the park for many years. Johnson recalls her son, who at the time of the build, was 10 years old. 

“The first day of the build was my oldest son's’ tenth birthday,” she said. “You had to be 10 to help. He got to help build it and he got so excited. He was that kind of kid he was, and now he’s that kind of adult.”

“He remembers very, very clearly being able to help on a build,” Johnson said.

The Wild West Jordan playground was the first of the community-built playgrounds that Johnson was involved with. There are four additional playgrounds that were constructed after the Wild West Jordan that involved residents, town hall idea meetings and community labor. 

“It set a model for additional community-built playgrounds,” Johnson said. “Most of them went hand in hand with neighborhood cleanup projects.” 

Even residents from outside the city would drive just to come to this playground. William Kitchen would bring his 4-year-old son to the playground. He lives in West Valley and would make the 15-minute drive frequently. 

“We were really surprised that is was just cleared out,” he said. “I have him 50/50 custody, so every time I have him, I bring him down here. He refers to it as the castle park. It looked cool; it had a lot of hiding places. We always played hide and seek. 

I was really confused. I really hope it’s a new and improved version of the old one. I don’t know of another park like that.” 

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