The Savannah/Newlands Community Playfield is to undergo a major renovation with restored facilities following its devastating blow from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
In fact, because work could potentially begin on the park next month, the community’s Heritage Day as part of Pirates Week festivities will not take place there this year.
The new venue for the event this year will be the Agricultural Pavilion, which will see the Market at the Grounds take place in tandem with the Savannah/Newlands heritage day, which falls on Saturday, 17 November.
Voluntarily taking on renovations at the near-three-acres community playfield will be the social club attached to Mike’s Group Of Companies, CAMBIE.
So far more than 80 people from this group have signed up as volunteers to do various forms of labour needed at the park, ranging from construction, carpentry, landscaping, plumbing and electrical work, in what will be a two-year project.
Chairperson of the Savannah/Newlands Heritage Day, Heather Bodden commented, ‘This is an exciting time for us and one that we’ve been longing for. It’s time. It’s time that we got something up there.’
She said that as Savannah is the fastest growing district in Cayman the park is greatly needed.
‘It needs to be put back as a proper park for people to go and enjoy: with the swing-sets, benches, shade trees, children’s facilities and proper covered areas to host events so that if it rains we’re covered for heritage days as well as seniors’ parties.’
For the community that is busting at the seams a safe area is needed, she said, where people can go and visit and feel like they are safe and comfortable with all the amenities they need.
Marketing and Sales Manager with Mike’s Ice Sarah Harvey explained that CAMBIE saw this as a great opportunity to rebuild an important part of Savannah, somewhere the children have a chance to play and do social activities. ‘Also, we wanted to take on a project that’s not just on a small scale,’ she said.
Ms Harvey is on the CAMBIE committee along with Karen McGill, LT Brown, Annelize duPreez, Jane Warren-Salmon and Eddie Armstrong (President).
On the volunteer side CAMBIE wanted to commit to the park because they have such a strong group of people suitable to the labour involved, Ms Harvey said.
‘We have about 60 per cent of the materials needed donated already from other companies,’ she explained.
But the group is still looking for donations of plants and flowers for the project.
Plans for the park include a fitness trail going along its outer perimeters, including 10 obstacle course stations.
A large children’s colourful play activity facility with slides, tunnels and climbing areas is also to be installed, but this will probably come towards the end of the project with fundraising needed for that.
They are also looking at putting in a large soccer field and plenty of covered areas.
A landscape designer is also working with CAMBIE on the project, with native plants and trees and traditional style gazebos to be put in.
Heritage will be a strong element of the new park, with plaques posted about those who have contributed to the park or district. Suggestions for such people are still being sought.
CAMBIE is also planning walkathon in Savannah in January to raise money for the park.
Since Ivan, the bathrooms at the park have been repaired and the caretaker’s cottage has been rebuilt, noted Ms Bodden.
The stalls used for food or crafts during heritage days were also destroyed, and four have been rebuilt through the help of Jim Robertson, the developer of the Bluffs at Pedro, an oceanfront condo development nearby.
He has also greatly assisted in improving other areas of the park, such as in providing the backboards for the hard-court and painting it, the labour to rebuild the stalls and to re-shingle the bathrooms and the new roof for the barbecue pit.
Ms Bodden noted, ‘The grounds look beautiful now with the recent rains and we’ve been so fortunate that a lot of people in the community have given us plants, and a lot of them have been replanted and they are now flourishing really well.’
Since her father Jay, and his two brother, Abshire and Hubert, donated the park to the community 30 years ago, it has always been a community effort on everybody’s part with what has been put there, but it has become bigger than the community can handle on its own since it was destroyed in Ivan, she said.
‘We’ve lost four great women from the community in the last four years, one almost every year,’ she explained, speaking of Jackie Bodden, Kadie Ebanks, Betty Hurlston and Coreen Eden. ‘They were the pillars of the community and they were the ones that put all their heart and soul and energy in making the field what it was before Ivan. And so much thanks and appreciation have to be given to those four great women.’
She said the heritage committee is appealing to everyone to help in getting the park rebuilt so it will be a reality for the youth and those that loved to use it.
Speaking about this year’s district day being at the Agricultural grounds Ms Bodden said it will be a great day, with great parking facilities and shaded areas. ‘The venue offers so much for us to be able to do,’ she said. ‘It makes it a little easier for us to do that this year and hopefully next year we’ll be able to have the grounds in a better condition.
‘The day is always geared towards the children. It’s always been a children’s day and parents have been so keen to drop their children off knowing they are left in a safe and clean environment,’ she added.
If anyone is interested in joining in to help rebuild the Savannah/Newlands Playfield, or if anyone wants to donate any lumber, they can contact Sarah Harvey at 926-2573.