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Increasing Healthy Living in North Carolina Communities:
Eat Smart, Move More Community Grants

Brunswick County Playground Creates Community

The Brunswick County Health Department received a 2012-2013 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant to build a children’s playground in the Phoenix community in the town of Navassa. Navassa is a small, rural town located in Brunswick County on the west bank at the convergence of Brunswick and Cape Fear Rivers. Incorporated in 1977, Navassa is home to about 1,800 citizens including 400 children.

This growing town strives to maintain its small town identity while providing urban amenities for its citizens. One of the first steps taken by the town prior to the Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant, was the development of the Navassa Parks and Recreation Master Plan in 2011. Community surveys were distributed to determine residents’ needs and barriers to physical activity. Data indicated that residents desired additional parks and would use the parks more if “there was more to do at the facilities.” The master plan prioritized the development of Phoenix Park.

Once funds were secured to build the children’s playground, community “Design Day” was held. The event was a tremendous success that was attended by approximately 200 people. Pictures of various playground features (i.e. bridges, climbing structures, swings, etc.) were provided to help the children make their decisions. Upon arrival at the event, all children received 10 stickers which were used to “vote” for their favorite playground feature. Over 60 children cast votes. Design Day festivities also included information, health screenings and interactive games sponsored by Feast Down East, Smart Start of Brunswick County, Brunswick County Parks and Recreation, and the Brunswick County Health Department. Healthy foods, such as grilled vegetables, turkey dogs, and fresh fruit and vegetables, were available for attendees to sample.

Incorporating the “votes” of the children, the playground manufacture developed three potential plans which were presented to the Navassa Parks and Recreation Board. The final design was chosen, and in April of 2013 the playground was installed.

Partners for the project included:

  • Obesity Prevention Initiative at the University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • The Town of Navassa (mayor, city manager, town council, town planner)
  • The Navassa Parks and Recreation Board
  • Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Brunswick County Parks and Recreation
  • Smart Start of Brunswick County
  • Feast Down East
  • Live Fit Cape Fear
  • Safe Kids Cape Fear
  • Two Wheeler Dealer (bicycle shop in Wilmington, NC)
  • Navassa Drum and Drill Team
  • Brandon “Bigg B” Hickman, the voice of Coast 97.3

Here’s what folks are saying:
 “I see lots of families who are using Phoenix Park now to increase physical activity. The empty space has been transformed into one that encourages physical activity and families being together! Many residents use the park on their lunch breaks. Children play in the middle [on the play structure] and adults engage in recreation around the outside. I will be going there this weekend for a horseshoe tournament!”

 “The children of Navassa particularly enjoy this project. They participated in the Park Design Day event with gusto. Being able to share their voices and dreams for the design of the play structure at Phoenix Park and then see their wishes become a reality when the play structure was installed was very empowering. Additionally, they have expressed tremendous pride in the play structure they designed, which will hopefully lead to increased use and decreased vandalism of the facility.”

As a result of this project, the residents of Navassa now have increased access to safe places to be physically active. Specifically, Phoenix Park contains a play structure that was designed by none other than the children of Navassa. A master plan for Phoenix Park, also based on public input, will guide additional development of the park. A softball field, walking trails, basketball courts and a toddler playground will be added as funding is acquired. A Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant has been awarded to fund the installation of the basketball courts and softball field.

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