As someone who grew up in Harrisonburg, I spent many a childhood afternoon and weekend enjoying the public parks the city offered. However, around the age of ten, the city constructed a new structure in Purcell Park called Kids’ Castle. Made primarily of wood, with a few bits of metal and rubber, the place was absolutely fantastic. Without a doubt, it was one of my favorite spots and so I often begged my parents to take me there.
Several weeks ago, I got together with a friend who lives near Purcell Park and so I suggested taking a walk through the area. Although I had visited the park several months prior, this time I took the opportunity to return to my childhood destination of Kids’ Castle.
Unfortunately, what I discovered was very distressing; the wooden structure was falling into disrepair. Many of the metal surfaces had begun to rust, some of the boards were exceedingly worn, a few nail ends were visible, ready to pierce the hands of unaware children, a tire bridge was actively disintegrating, and a handful of weeds grew up through the gravel. Although it was beginning to rain, I toured a bit of the castle and nearly fell on an exceedingly slippery piece of wood. It was as if Kids’ Castle had been more or less forgotten, abandoned these last 22 years.
I brought up this matter during the public forum of the next meeting of the Harrisonburg City Council. Reaction from the council was mixed. For example, Council Member Chenault mentioned that a newer park, A Dream Come True, over on the west end of the city was built to replace Kids’ Castle and given the sorry state of the facility, it might be best to tear it down. After the meeting, I received an email from Council Member Degner and a phone call from Council Member Shearer; due to these contacts, I also spoke to the manager of Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Yesterday, I was featured on WHSV TV-3 to briefly speak about the matter. That segment, which aired at 11 PM last night, can be found at this link.
It is my great hope that Kids’ Castle can be repaired so that the present and next generation of children can treasure it as much as I once did. And, assuming I ever experience the joy of children of my own, I’d very much like for them to have a wonderful and nearby place to play outside, a recreational option that is much healthier than the hours of television or video games that parents increasingly rely upon these days.
So what will happen next? Well, as a result of the city council meeting and the reporting of WHSV, I’ve been told that the city is planning to repair much of Kids’ Castle by the end of July. It is excellent news. It is time to reclaim Kids’ Castle!