NEW PORT RICHEY — To borrow a phrase from a 1980s hit song, kids just wanna have fun, as demonstrated by the new playground at James E. Grey Preserve.
Youngsters take to the playground like ducks to water, said New Port Richey Parks and Recreation Director Elaine Smith. A gift from New Port Richey Rotary, the playground opened on Feb. 6 at the wooded preserve off Plathe Road.
Parents can lounge on park benches to supervise their offspring, watch the fun and wonder where the youths get all that energy.
Mike Speidel, the recreation manager at New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, brought his crew of three children to the preserve early one morning last weekend.
“Wait for me!” 2-year-old Bella Speidel exclaimed as she rushed to the playground behind big sister Kyana Bolduc, 3. Older brother Chase Marin, 5, already had scampered up the climbing wall and was zooming down the circular slide.
They joined Daisy, 6, and Hunter, 3, children of Kristen Schwendeman of Hudson.
A surprise guest greeted the youngsters. The Fit Phantom, the superhero mascot of the city Parks and Recreation department, high-fived the youths for getting plenty of exercise while romping.
In the meantime, a Pasco-Hernando State College group was preparing to start a wildlife study under one of the 80-acre preserve’s many shelters.
The playground is driving more visitors to check out Grey Preserve, Smith said.
“The traffic to the Grey Preserve, I don’t have any exact totals, but it’s at least doubled, just because of this playground,” Smith said. “We actually have people who have discovered this park now. It’s just a beautiful nature park right in the middle of the city.”
“It starts in the parks,” a dedication plaque reads in part to honor the donation from the Rotary Club of New Port Richey.
“It’s a $50,000 playground and absolutely wonderful addition to our park,” Smith remarked. “The New Port Richey Rotary Club does so much for the community and not everybody really realizes how much they do and what the impact is to the community.”