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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

As rain poured down atop the park's wooden castle, a van filled with children pulled up to the gates of Kid's Kingdom Playground in Boynton Beach.

The van remained for nearly half an hour until the skies cleared, at which point the van's doors opened and kids began spilling out.

It was a scene that won't be repeated at Kid's Kingdom, a playground in downtown Boynton Beach that has become near and dear to residents. The park, at 129 E. Ocean Ave., closed on July 2.

The city hosted a "Last Play Date" on Saturday.

"It's been a very important part of our community downtown, so we wanted to celebrate that we will be closing it, but also creating a new one," said Eleanor Krusell, public communications and marketing director for Boynton Beach.

Boynton residents were sad to say goodbye to a park that served as the foundation for memories they had built with their children over the years.

"We've lived in Boynton for about two years now and we come here pretty regularly, so it's just a bummer," said resident Heather Furnish.

The park will give way to the development of a $118 million, 16-acre project that hopes to turn the area off Boynton Beach Boulevard into a pedestrian-friendly town center.

Krusell said the project's development plan includes a park, so the city will hold meetings, welcoming parents and children, to talk about what they would want in a park.

"What a cool experience for them to have input on a park that they'll use, and other kids will use," Furnish said.

Furnish said she is a bit concerned about the safety and security of children at the new playground, compared to Kid's Kingdom, which was near the police station.

The city said it is addressing the issue.

"The new 16 blocks that we're going to have will have much more in it, so that it becomes more active and useful, and has more people hopefully," Krusell said.

"There will be people living here and working here, and there will be restaurants, so it becomes a more active area where it doesn't close down at five o'clock, so we want to encourage the nighttime activity."

The city is looking at a nighttime activity manager who will be on the beat, as well as police officers who also will be worked into the security plan. The city also is looking for locations to put police substations.

Kid's Kingdom was initially built by residents. Anyone who donated money to the playground will receive a picket in their honor. They will be able to pick up their picket July 14 at the park.

"The community built this, so we are cognitive that thousands of volunteers worked toward building this playground," Krusell said.

rdipentima@pbpost.com

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