Flint, MI—When Nancy Edwards received a photo of a resident’s young twins playing on the bouncy ladybug in a new Flint playground, she smiled.

“If you’re lucky enough to be out there to see and hear the kids playing, no matter how bad a day you’re having, you’re gonna smile,” Edwards, the Director of Keep Genesee County Beautiful (KGCB), said. 

The ladybug is a new addition to Farnumwood Park, and is part of one of two new playgrounds that have just been built in Flint in the last week. 

With funding from the City of Flint’s Community Development Block Grant, KGCB was able to complete a two-year project, building playgrounds at McKinley and Farnumwood Park. 

The playgrounds have everything a kid needs to safely slide, swing, climb, and spin to their heart’s content. 

Before the new playgrounds were built, McKinley Park had one swing set with one swing, Edwards said. At Farnumwood Park, the new playground replaces an old one that was removed in 2018. Now Farnumwood has two playgrounds, each geared toward a different age group.

Part of the new playground structures at Farnumwood Park on Flint’s south side on May 28, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

McKinley Park is in the area of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a project aimed at revitalizing south Flint housing and neighborhoods. 

“The bigger picture is that all of this work is coordinated, and it’s all going to change the look of the south Flint area including the playgrounds and parks,” Edwards said. 

Edwards said there were also playgrounds recently built at Riverside West Park on N. Webster Rd., and Kearsley Park off of Chavez, which were funded through the KGCB Ruth Mott Foundation Grant, and the Flint Kids Fund, respectively. 

But these new playgrounds are just a few of the 34 that KGCB has built in Flint over the last five years, to replace old playgrounds no longer in good condition. 

Edwards said that when she talks to park adopters about the improvements they would like to see, playgrounds are always at the top of the list. 

“So replacing all of the hazardous playgrounds and old playgrounds that have been in city parks for years has been a priority for us,” Edwards said. “And we are just about done with replacing every single old, hazardous playground in the City of Flint in public parks.”

She said there are a couple more playgrounds she has ordered for Ophelia Bonner Park, and Mott Park, and that there may be a couple more after that, but then it will be about maintenance and safety inspections. 

Part of the new playground structures at Farnumwood Park on Flint’s south side on May 28, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“It’s been a whirlwind of making sure that kids have safe places to play,” Edwards said. 

Playing is good for more than just a kid’s spirit. Edwards said that getting kids outdoors and doing physical activity helps mitigate the effects of lead.

Playgrounds are also a great visual sign of positive change, she said. 

“When we talked about planning for this and surveying for that, people said they wanted to see something change. And so being able to do new playgrounds just absolutely did that,” Edwards said. “It’s a combination of wanting kids to have safe places to play, and visible change, and neighborhoods coming together.” 

Edwards said she feels lucky to be in a position where she can share resources with Flint residents looking to make changes in their neighborhoods.

“It’s important for people to know this is not driven by the government. This is driven by your neighbors, and they’re the ones that want to create change,” she said. “And then those of us that are lucky enough to be in positions where we have access to resources … it’s my job to make sure I share those resources so that people can accomplish the work that they want to accomplish.” 

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...