Standing in front of a backdrop of painted forest creatures, Kenai Vice Mayor Brian Gabriel dedicated the Kenai Municipal Park’s “Enchanted Forest” playground in a ceremony on Saturday.
“You kids are the customers we were trying to target,” Gabriel said to the gathered children. “Did we do a good job?”
Some present shouted back affirmatives.
Following a ribbon-cutting, members of the Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission sent the children on a scavenger hunt for features of the new play equipment. The park has two new areas: one for children 2 to 5 years old, and one for those 5 to 12 years old.
New equipment for the younger children includes a standing seesaw, a round swing, and several spring-mounted riding devices. The older children’s section of the park includes a platform with two slides and a crawl-tunnel, and a large artificial boulder with rock-climbing holds.
According to a presentation given to the Kenai City Council when they approved funding for the park equipment in December 2014, the 2- to 5-year-old area cost around $160,751, and the 5- to 12-year-old area around $107,966. In addition to spending by the city, donations from individuals and businesses also funded the park.
Zoey Welch, Cooper Collier, and Maddy Triana are students at the Soldotna Montessori Charter School who were brought to the Kenai Municipal Park for the first time on Saturday.
Collier and Triana said their favorite piece of equipment was actually a feature that had been in the park previously: the spider-climber, a pyramid-shaped frame strung with tight rope for climbing on. However, of the new equipment, they favored the skyrunner, a spinning wheel mounted on a tilted pole that users can ride in circles.
Welch was enthusiastic about the park’s wooden animal sculptures. The sculptures were created from logs by Kenai chainsaw artist Derek Stanton and include a howling wolf, a moose holding a welcome sign, a beaver, and a bear poking out of a hollow log, which Triana named as a favorite.
“I like how it looks like it’s just relaxing, but it’s kind of stuck, too,” she said of the bear.
For Collier, however, the park was not quite perfect — specifically in its selection of wooden animals.
“This place needs some bats,” he said.
“Bats hanging from the trees,” she said. “That would be so cool.”