Kenner playspot upgrade in works

A 25-year-old playground in South Kenner will get a much-needed facelift soon thanks to a federal grant awarded to the city.

The Bertha Lee Jackson “playspot” on Salvador Road is slated to receive roughly $200,200 in improvements in the next four months after Kenner was awarded a community development block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Arleeta Terrell, the city’s director of community development.

The city awarded the contract to Tuna Construction LLC for River Ridge, and the work is expected to take about four months.

Terrell said the city is adding a water fountain, play equipment, concrete walkway, improved shade area, additional seating and landscaping to the playspot. In a separate project, the city plans to add lighting to the playground, which already has a covered basketball court, picnic tables and a tot lot.

Terrell said the lack of lighting forces activities at the playground to end at night, so the new lighting will increase how long residents can use the facility. The park has been in the area for years after its namesake donated the land to the city.

Wilma Irvin, a former councilwoman, said the playground always has been a beacon in the community. When Jackson donated the property, children in that community didn’t really have a place to play near their homes.

In addition, it was harder for them to travel to other parks in the city because they had to cross Airline Drive and nearby railroad tracks, Irvin said.

The park, which initially began as just a big, grassy lot, gave them a safer outlet, and Irvin remembers kids from all over the area using it.

“It was really convenient; it was really needed,” Irvin said.

Irvin said that considering its age, the park is well-maintained, but getting new lights is a big step because it will expand the opportunities for people to use the park. Irvin can see late-night basketball leagues starting there, and she said better lighting will make it more difficult for illegal activity to take place there.

“To have lights on the lot now would be very special for the area and for the children,” Irvin said. “It will give the young men of the community something to do.”

Councilman Gregory Carroll said residents in the area have been clamoring for lights for years. The lights will make it easier for residents to enjoy the park in safety, he said.

He said Jackson facility is only a playspot, not a full playground, but for many residents is the most convenient recreational facility in the area.

“The lights will give them security,” Carroll said.

“It’s been a number of years of people asking about it.”