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Clayton's Universal Playground Scores Big Boost!


We got it! We got it!

CLAYTON SCORES BIG IN STATE-WIDE PARK GRANT: Town Moves One Step Closer to Building Unique Inclusive Playground!

Town of Clayton Parks & Recreation staff are incredibly excited to announce that we’ve been selected to receive $89,810 from a super competitive statewide park grant program called Connect NC. It’s a huge win for the Town of Clayton - now the funds for first phase of the much-anticipated Universal Playground at East Clayton Community Park will be in the bank!

In a nail-biting voting session this past Friday at Umstead State Park in Raleigh, the 9-member Parks and Recreation Authority, appointed by the Governor and General Assembly, scrutinized 45 different grant requests from around North Carolina – requests that totaled nearly $10 million. The board had to assign points to each request because only $3 million in funding was available. Clayton Parks and Recreation staff listened in, restricted at this point from speaking or advocating for our request, as the board debated how to best spread the money around the state to the worthiest projects. Then, beginning with the highest scores, the board began to read out the town names. Clayton was the second name they called!

“We spent a lot of time on our grant application, but sitting in this room full of people, handcuffed at this point from being able to jump up and champion our playground proposal to the board members was pure torture,” said Larry Bailey, long-time Clayton Parks & Recreation Director, who announced the grant win to Town Council. “You can’t imagine how shocked and relieved we were to hear ‘Clayton’, especially so highly ranked! I think the board realized this money is just the catalyst we need to kick off a unique and much larger project for Clayton.”

The Universal Playground at East Clayton Community Park is designed not only with children with disabilities in mind, but children of ALL abilities. Town leaders, recreation volunteers and the community want a place where children of all types can interact, laugh, and play in a safe, welcoming environment.

The playground will incorporate physical activities to build strength, social interaction and communication to make friends, cognitive elements to help develop personalities, and sensory elements to delight children through sight, sound and touch. The playground will exceed compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and meet Universal Design standards. It will incorporate special ramps which would make it easy for adults and children who have difficulty moving around on ground covered with uneven grass, sand, straw or mulch.

The $89,000 will go toward the first of three diverse areas of the park – an area called Contemplate. Here is a calming space designed to allow playground visitors to relax on a gently rocking platform and swinging bridge. Children can interact with soothing water with a vertical water touch wall and cooling foot bubbler. Elements such as canvas flag fans and tubular chimes allow for interactive, musical play. Adjacent to the central area is a soft lawn for climbing, crawling and rolling. Children will use the Pull-Up Bars and Pull-Up Ladybugs and pretend to ride a ladybug.

The Mayor & Council happily dedicated land for this unique playground at the Town's newest and largest park on Glen Laurel Road, East Clayton Community Park. They also hired CLH design, p.a. - Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering to draft the concept and cost analysis for this one-of-a-kind, destination playground. With a total price-tag edging toward $700,000, the Town of Clayton initiated a public-private partnership with Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc. to help raise money. This non-profit, 501(c)3 organization has been helping the community support family events, parks and other Clayton recreation activities for more than 2 decades.

With the help of T&T Creative Group, the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc has recently re-energized the capital campaign in hopes of achieving the goal of raising $700,000 by this November. They’re spreading the word to area businesses and searching for potential corporate donors to add to the growing list of supporters. They’re also planning a huge golf tournament in partnership with the United States Disabled Golf Association on May 5th at The Neuse Golf Club, just down the road from the playground site. Announcing their excitement about the momentum behind the playground were Lyn Purkerson of T&T Creative and Jan Craig and Bridgett Knapp Bailey of the playground's UNITY committee. 

This grant was made possible last March, when more than 63% of Johnston County voters checked the box at the polls to support the Connect NC Bond Program. It earmarked $3 million dollars for Parks & Recreation projects that will benefit veterans and children with disabilities. The 4 to 1 matching grant asks local municipalities to contribute $1 for every $4 from the state, in this case $28,938 for the Town of Clayton.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and other special state parks funding have sparked the momentum for amazing park projects in Clayton. In 1998, we earned a $250,000 grant for Clayton Community Park on Amelia Church Road. In 2005, the state doubled down, granting half a million dollars to Clayton for Phase II of the Clayton Community Center. And in 2011, we received a $300,000 PARTF grant to acquire that land which will be developed as a future park and is now home to the trailhead for our popular section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – the @Clayton River Walk on the Neuse greenway of Covered Bridge Road.

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