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Hard work pays off as adventure playground reopens
SEVEN months ago, volunteers at an Oxford playground were just seconds away from announcing it had closed for good.
But thanks to the tireless efforts of residents – and a helping hand from the Oxford Mail – the Blackbird Leys Adventure Playground reopens today for the first time in two years.
Residents celebrated last night as the sound of children playing and laughing look set to ring through the estate once again.
Chairman Kieran Watson, who has battled for two years to see it reopen, said: “It’s truly amazing. We are finally part of the Blackbird Leys community again.”
The playground provided a place for children from the estate to play for more than 30 years before it closed in December 2009 due to financial concerns.
Its future looked bleak as committee members were turned down for a string of grant applications.
In September last year, Mr Watson told the Oxford Mail unless something changed within days, the playground would never reopen.
But in November, the playground was catapulted back to life with a £6,590 grant from the Gannett Foundation, the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail’s parent company.
Mr Watson said: “Along with new committee members, that made the difference. We were up and running.”
Scores of volunteers have spent every weekend this year painting and repairing the playground.
A dozen others gave up their free time to train as qualified play workers and the playground will now open every night after school until the summer.
Mr Watson said: “To get children through our doors will be incredible. All the kids we speak to are so excited.”
Events already planned include Olympics-themed sports, a Diamond Jubilee celebration and lots of arts and crafts activities.
Oxfordshire County Council also looks likely to donate £10,000 to the playground, which will allow it to run throughout the summer holidays.
Mr Watson said: “It is truly the best news I’ve had in a long time.”
Mum-of-one Gabi Allen will be volunteering at the opening session tonight. She said: “We are over the moon, so many parents have been asking when it’s going to reopen.
“It’s just going to be brilliant to see the doors open and kids coming here again, they are going to love it.”
The playground in Blackbird Leys Road is open to children aged eight to 13 from 3pm-5.15pm every weekday. Children must be registered by an adult in their first sessions, which cost £1 and come with a free drink and snack.