Spring might still be a few weeks away, but the long-awaited opening of Evans Park at Millville brings new opportunities for outdoor activities for all ages.
From toddler-friendly play equipment to pickleball courts, the new park offers areas for residents and visitors “to go and enjoy themselves,” Town Manager Deborah Botchie said.
With a “soft opening” set for noon on Monday, March 1, Botchie said that, after the brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, “kiddies can do whatever they want” at the park. Both the toddler play area and one designed for older children will be open, as will the Challenge Course — an electronic obstacle course where participants can time themselves and can compete against people using other courses across the country.
The Challenge Course is designed to be used by preteens through adults, Botchie said.
Also opening March 1 is a walking trail with exercise equipment, including an elliptical machine, chest-press apparatus and a chin-up bar.
The path will be lighted, and security cameras have been added throughout the complex.
Adults who want to play pickleball will have to wait a few weeks, though. The three courts at the park won’t be completed by the time the park opens, with the courts still needing to be painted and fenced, and lighting yet to be completed.
Ground was broken at the park on Sept. 10, 2019. The Town purchased the 5-acre property on Dukes Drive from the Evans family in June 2015 for $800,000.
Due to ongoing restrictions on indoor gatherings, the Millville Community Center that is part of the park complex will not open March 1, but Botchie and the town administration have big plans for when the building is able to open.
The 4,400-square-foot community building will be fitted with audio and video equipment that can be used for public and private events, Botchie said. She said she envisions a wide variety of activities in the building, from yoga and dance classes to dinner theater.
The building includes a small kitchen, office space and a conference room, in addition to the main multipurpose area.
A maintenance building on the grounds also includes public restrooms, but they will remain closed for the time being, because of the challenges of maintaining them according to COVID-19 sanitation requirements. Once they are open, Botchie said, they will be sanitized twice weekly.
In addition to the pickleball courts, still to come on the park property is a pavilion, which could be used for concerts and other events. The pavilion is currently in the design phase, Botchie said.
A paved “plaza” area in front of the community building could be used for food trucks during future events.
The Town budgeted $3.5 million for the park project, and thanks to several grants, has stayed within that figure. The largest grant was a land acquisition grant from the state Department of Parks & Recreation for $200,000. The Town has also received state parks grants in the amounts of $50,000 to offset the cost of the Challenge Course, and $100,000 for the maintenance building and restrooms, and is awaiting the receipt of an $80,000 grant for the pickleball courts.
GameTime, the company that designed the playground and Challenge Course, and provided the equipment, has given the Town a grant of $115,303 for those elements of the park. Botchie said GameTime consultant Brian Lewis was a great help in designing the park, from helping the Town carry out the nautical theme in the playground to ensuring there is something in the park for all ages to enjoy.
Botchie said she hopes the Town can host summer camps for a variety of sports during the summer months, using the large open space in the middle of the park.
“There’s room to expand out there,” for additional structures or equipment, as well, Botchie said.
Although the open space is truly “open” right now, Botchie said trees will eventually provide some shade. Lord’s Landscaping in Millville received the bid for the park’s landscaping; the Town received a $5,000 grant for the trees from the Delaware Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry program.
While the park’s playgrounds and exercise equipment will be open as of March 1, Botchie emphasized that visitors will be required to adhere to current COVID-19 safety measures, which will be posted on signs within the park.
Evans Park at Millville is located at 32517 Dukes Drive, Millville. The park will be open following a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon on Monday, March 1.