April 5, 2014

For families, Varnell Park upgrades a symbol that spring has arrived

By Christopher Smith

— VARNELL — Rickie Homes, 8, says he remembers getting “bored to death” at his home in Tunnel Hill when he was stuck indoors during several snow storms earlier this year.

“I’m over snow,” he said. “I’m so sick of snow. That’s what my dad says: I’m so sick of the cold. I am too. Sick of it.”

Saturday afternoon there wasn’t a single snow cloud in sight, with a spring sun warming the field of Varnell Park.

Much of the playground was upgraded recently, including a fresh coat of paint, new boards on the playground, better swings and trimmed trees — all made possible by a $5,000 grant awarded from the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia to the Young Professionals of Northwest Georgia.

The organization spent the afternoon celebrating the changes at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with members of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce.

“We bounced ideas back and forth about what to do with the money,” Andrea Ownbey, president of the Young Professionals organization, said. “I love seeing the kids play in a safe place and families spending time together. It makes me feel really good and proud to be a part of it. It looks amazing! Much better than before.”

Nick Michaels, 11, who lives “just down the street” from the park, said he “really liked the new, cool colors.”

“It’s a cool place to play,” he said. “I come a lot. And now it’s better. I can walk here from my house whenever I want to and have this place all to myself.”

Much of the work was done in February by volunteers through the organization and the Varnell City Council, Ownbey said.

“Not only were young professionals out and working, but the city council did too,” she said. “We waited ... to do a ribbon cutting until April so that it would be warmer outside.    It feels great.”

Ownbey added that parks are crucial to helping kids stay active, which can help counter childhood obesity and depression.

Rickie said he really enjoyed the sunny Saturday and “really hopes it’s the end of snow forever,” looking skeptically at the mostly cloudless sky just to make sure no freak blizzards were in the horizon.

“I bet it’ll snow next time it’s cold,” he said. “I’d rather be outside playing on the playground. The sun is fun.”