MANATEE — Small children climbed on new playground equipment, others played basketball on freshly paved courts and adults stood back watching, smiling.
It was the opening celebration for Peace Community Park, a 14th Street West playground area, on three acres behind Peace Lutheran Church and School, 1611 30th Ave. W.
Fourteenth Street is an area known for its crime and plagued with drugs, prostitution and violence. Advisory board members of the redevelopment project, which funded the $135,743 park, hopes this is a step to start changing that reputation.
K.C. Peters, a church member, watched her 2-year-old granddaughter Emma climb on the brightly colored playground equipment.
“(Fourteenth Street) has a bad rep, but it’s much needed. There was nothing to take the children to. There’s so many families with little ones,” she said. “Little things like this bring the community together.”
The new park features a new playground equipment, a fenced basketball court area, a soccer field and a nine-hole disc golf course with scattered picnic tables under shaded wooden overhangs.
Karen Stewart, economic development manager of Manatee County Neighborhood Services — the county agency that administers redevelopment funding — said parks like Peace give area residents a location to hold events and meetings.
“Sometimes in areas that are blighted or have crime, people lose a sense of pride,” she said. “Peace Park is a place where it can start. We hope it’s going to be a hub in the community.”
Nathan Nolte, principal of Peace Lutheran School and a member of the redevelopment advisory board, said he hopes the park would foster more relationships with the church and school. He also hopes it will improve the area.
“There has been improvement in crime with the sheriff’s office working. I would hope having something like this would give the community something to be proud of,” he said. “Is it going to solve crime? I’m not going to deceive myself with that, but it gives people a sense of pride.”