Build homes + attract families + play: KaBOOM! in Port Arthur

Published 8:35 am Monday, October 22, 2018

By Ken Stickney

What some 160 volunteers accomplished Friday at Augusta Avenue and Fifth Street may serve Port Arthur children for a generation or more.

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The work crew, which included city employees, volunteers from sponsors like Dr Pepper and Keurig, sororities, college students and others assembled and erected a 2,500-square-foot play area to serve children 2-10.

Funding was provided by KaBOOM!, an American non-profit organization that has generated funds and built more than 17,000 playgrounds over two decades, including playgrounds along the Gulf Coast since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Children will be provided by an adjacent neighborhood that’s now now being revitalized by new home construction that will serve working families near downtown Port Arthur.

Chandra Alpough, Port Arthur’s parks and recreation director, said the play site is on land that was owned by the city and has been vacant. It formerly served as a park.

She said the new park would probably be open by midweek.

Alpough said her department applied for park funding from KaBOOM! and prepared for the one-day “build” by prepping the work site for volunteers. She said the goal for volunteers was to construct the park, which includes shady spots, plants and seating areas, within six hours Friday.

She said city workers arrived around 6 a.m. to further prepare the site and volunteers arrived around 8 a.m. By 9, crews were fully engaged in building the play area and its additional features.

Sponsors included Market Basket, Harbor Hospice, KaBOOM!, the city of Port Arthur, and Legacy Community Development Corp., which is fostering the nearby new home construction.

“It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful project,” said Stacy Matthews, disaster case manager for Legacy. “We hope it will go well with the revitalization. We are changing the downtown area.”

She said Legacy is building 60 homes in two phases around the park, as well as an apartment complex a few blocks away. New homes are being built from West Atlanta to East Nashville avenues and from Fifth to Seventh streets.

Homebuyers in the neighborhood must pass muster with Legacy, which requires that they are employed, have acceptable credit ratings and attend homeownership classes.

“We hope everyone in the area takes advantage of the park,” Matthews said.

Seth Sneed, a volunteer from Keurig, said the project was going well at midafternoon. “It’s been a good experience.”

Alpough said volunteers responded admirably to the challenge, carried out under clear skies with temperatures creeping into the 80s.