Popular Columbia playground to have grand reopening

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's Chamber of Commerce was set to host a ribbon cutting for the grand reopening of new playground equipment in Cosmo Park on Friday.

The Steinberg Playground is Columbia's "biggest and best," said Matt Boehner, Columbia's Senior Park Planner who oversaw the renovation.

Boehner said the initial idea for renovating Steinberg Playground stemmed from a 2010 Park Sales Tax. "Being the largest and most popular playground, a substantial amount was put forward to that," Boehner said.

That amount ended up totaling to $518,000. $18,000 of that total came from the Disabilities Commission, with the rest coming from the Park Sales Tax.

Boehner said the planning process for the playground began in November of 2012. Columbia's City Council approved the project in September of 2013 and work began the following November. He said construction was phased so portions of the playground could remain open while work proceeded elsewhere. The playground was first opened to the public in May of 2014, followed by other milestones in August and November 2014, and March 2015.

"The dedication on June 5th marked the significant completion of the playground," Boehner said.

He said Parks and Rec wanted to make the playground more accessible for children of all ages and disabilities.

The playground has a time machine theme, moving from prehistoric times to the space age. When children enter, they are immediately greeted by the Tyrannosaurus Rex feature, which is completely wheelchair accessible, Boehner said. As they make their way to the hillside part of the playground, they can climb the rocket ship.

Columbia Parks and Recreation is presenting the "Visit your Parks Playground Challenge" through Labor Day. To participate, you can visit their website.

From the website, the challenge is to "visit playgrounds at ten or more different parks, track your visits, and turn in your completed tracking sheet to Columbia Parks and Recreation to receive a prize."

"We like to try to challenge the citizens to find parks, and sometimes they don't know there's a park just down the street from them," Boehner said. He said he hopes the challenge influences children to be more active. "Get them more involved in our parks, get them out, get outside and play."

He said getting children more active was a big motivating factor in the renovations, along with preserving old memories.

"Grandparents bringing their kids, you know, and reinventing, coming back and seeing the playground they grew up on, or the parents, and then, getting their kids involved, and playing on the same playground," Boehner said.

The ribbon cutting was set to start at 4:45 Friday afternoon.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct formatting.]