ABOVE: The wooden castle fort stood for almost three decades.
OCT. 25 UDPATE: Construction is underway and completion is expected in early to mid November, according to the subcontractor.
There will no doubt be tears. The sprawling wooden beacon beloved by children and parents of Mount Dora for almost three decades will soon disappear. The aging play fort at Gilbert Park, a treasure trove of childhood memories for local families, will be permanently closed to the public on September 21 in preparation for its demolition on September 24.
After 28 years, the City of Mount Dora is replacing the charming old-school fort with a modern steel and plastic pirate ship for children from ages four to twelve. According to the City, the average life span of commercial playgrounds is approximately 15 to 20 years and the City’s Parks Department employees noticed the wooden structure was falling increasingly into disrepair causing safety concerns. The popular fort was built by the Mount Dora Woman’s Club in 1990 with the help of over a thousand volunteers spanning one week.
In June, the City Council made the decision to replace the structure, prior to the completion of the Parks Master Plan. The $263,000 price tag of the new playground will be funded by the Parks Impact Fee fund.
The durable pirate ship, dubbed the “Intrepid” by the manufacturer, Kompan, is approximately 60 feet long and 20 feet tall. It features clear lines of sight, two slides, a rope course and a sliding pole, as well as various interactive components on the upper deck and ground level. The ship's deck is not wheelchair accessible, according to a representative from the Texas-based company. However, the compressed mulch ground cover will allow wheelchair access to the lower portion, according to Lisa McDonald, the city's public information officer. However, a report for the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health states wood chips are not recognized as an ADA-compliant playground surface material due to not meeting the propulsion and turning requirements for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. (Scroll down to view a video of the new play ship).
During the demolition and renovation, the park and facilities will remain open but the playground area will be closed. The playground will also be fenced off starting September 21, 2018.
A date of completion and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new equipment will be announced in the near future.
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City leaders in Eustis are always developing new ways to set the city apart. This fall, residents won’t be disappointed. The city will feature a downtown ice-skating rink, yes with real ice! The exact location is still being hammered out, but skaters are tentatively expected to hit the ice from November 19 to January 7.
The project will be dependent on community sponsorships, grants, and donations of approximately $115,000. The city budgeted $20,500 of its funds plus city services. Ticket sales, concession sales and rentals will make up the remaining revenue needed, according to Kristina Rosenburg, City of Eustis Public Relations Coordinator.
Admission prices have not been determined yet, but the city is planning discounted admission for children and groups of over 20 people. The skating rink will also be available for events and party rentals.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. To get the area's top stories in your inbox once a month, sign up for the free monthly issue of Mount Dora Buzz here.