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BELLFLOWER >> A new playground will be the center of attention during a community celebration at Thompson Park today.
The recently completed playground on South Bellflower Boulevard will cater to children up to age 5, and to children with special needs. The project also reclaims old park space that has gone unused for a number of years, city officials said.
P.J. Mellana, Bellflower's director of Parks and Recreation, said Thompson Park has not received any upgrades for about 20 years.
The new playground will give children in the neighborhood a dedicated space to play in and features a new play structure, glider, swings, spinner and climbing tunnel, Mellana said.
"We didn't have (equipment) designated for 0-to-5-year-olds," he said. "There's a playground for older children. We have a pathway to connect the two playgrounds."
The project was funded and completed through a First 5 LA's Tot Parks and Trails program. The nonprofit child advocacy group set aside $10 million in 2010 to invest in parks and other projects catering to young children in underserved areas of Los Angeles County.
Karen Robertson-Fall, program officer at the nonprofit, said the Tot Parks and Trails program attempts to address childhood obesity by providing places to play and stay active.
"It's about weight loss and muscle development," Robertson-Fall said.
First 5 LA contracts with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps for construction and other services, she said.
"Bellflower was chosen because of the number of children with special needs," Robertson-Fall said. "The city has a program in the recreation department for (those children)."
The new playground was constructed with wheelchair accessibility in mind, Mellana said. The city has programs, such as its recreational therapy program, geared toward helping children with special needs.
"This is just another way for us to meet those needs," he said. "We're very thankful to First 5 LA and to the (Conservation Corps)."
The playground at Thompson Park cost about $200,000. Construction began on Dec. 17 and finished on Monday, said Dore Burry, program manager of the Tot Parks and Trails program at the Conservation Corps.
"The LA Corps followed a rigorous process for selecting Tot Park and Trails project sites, which involved meeting with (County) Supervisor (Don) Knabe's office and performing over 75 site visits to parks to determine which sites were in most need," Burry said.
According to census data, there are 10,784 children under 5 years old, and an additional 10,510 children ages 5 to 9, within a 2-mile radius of Thompson Park, he said.
This population and the need in the community made updating Thompson Park "a natural choice," Burry said.
The park will officially open to the public today with an opening celebration scheduled from 3:30-4:30 p.m. The park is located at 14001 South Bellflower Blvd. in Bellflower. The event will feature free activities, healthful snacks and drinks.
Contact Greg Yee at 562-499-1476.