Comfort Lencho, 60, of Riverdale, who had brought her 8-month-old grandson, Isaac Freeman, to the July 22 grand opening of the “White Water Adventure” Imagination playground, said she especially liked the blue and green rubberized surface that was designed to look like water with orange fish.
Imagination playgrounds are designed to inspire children and foster creativity, according to the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.
“My children practically grew up here with no playground,” said Lencho, adding she has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years. “It was so exciting to see what we envisioned materialize.”
Lencho said she was part of a group of residents who asked Prince George’s County officials for a new playground in 2012, after Riverdale became eligible for additional funding as one of the county’s six designated Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, or TNI, areas facing economic, health and public safety challenges.
Brenda Iraola, landscape architectural supervisor with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said she and her team selected the white-water rafting theme for the Riverdale playground because Chris Colvin, a landscape architect on her staff, is an avid rafter.
The total cost for the playground, which is designed for children ages 2 to 12 years old, was $261,000, according to county officials.
Other than the “dingy and broken-up” asphalt lot on Sheridan Avenue, next to the former Riverdale Hills Elementary School, Lencho said the only place where children could play was an old playground on 61st Place.
“The old playground was horrible ... we heard of parents taking their kids up there and there’d be syringes,” said Beth Reed, vice president of the Riverdale Heights/Riverdale Hills/Crestwood Community Association. “It just was not a safe environment for kids.”
Residents said the project started to come together about two years ago, after they asked County Councilman Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park for funding.
“Playgrounds do have a transformative effect,” Olson said. “They bring parents together. They bring kids together. They bring grandparents together.”
County officials said Riverdale is one of five TNI neighborhoods where county-funded Imagination playgrounds have either been completed or are expected to open by the end of the year. Other sites are Glassmanor, Kentlands, Park Berkshire in Suitland and Langley Park. Plans for a sixth playground in Marlow Heights are on hold for the next two to three years while the Marlow Heights Community Center is being renovated.