FAMILIES will be able to explore the newly-revamped Barnes Park at the weekend – but not before besuited councillors enjoyed a zip down the slide and a go on the swings.
Members of Sunderland People First disabled advocacy group joined councillors and officers for a preview tour after a £3.6million overhaul of the park.
The park officially opens to the public on Saturday with a free celebration event and fun day.
Funding for the revamp came from a £2.4million Heritage Lottery grant, with other cash coming from council and other sources.
Project manager Helen Peverly said: “We’ve squeezed every last penny out of the budget and people will see where the money’s been spent.
“It’s been a long period of work, and I think everyone can be proud of the results.
“We’ve had the Sunderland People First disabled group with us here today and seeing their faces makes it all worthwhile.”
Work now completed includes:
* The restoration of the historic cannon, bandstand, railings and gates.
* Disabled and able-bodied play space.
* The rejuvenation of the lake, complete with a new bridge.
* Car parking facilities.
* CCTV coverage and improved security.
* Water features and a sensory garden.
Barnes councillor Tony Morrissey said he was delighted with the results of the 18-month project.
“I’m tempted to say the slide was my favourite, because I’ve just been on it, but there are a lot of great features,” he said.
“It was a fantastic park, but it was quite dark. I think the results are excellent. I think it will be great for the people of Barnes and from elsewhere.”
James Blackburn, the senior councillor who has overseen the park project, said the regeneration work had been worth the investment.
“The play park completed in phase one has been open a while now and every time I come down you can’t see the climbing frame for kids,” he said.
He added: “I think people will come from far and wide to see this park, and I’m really looking forward to seeing people come down after the opening.”
Barnes Park is the only park in the North East equipped with disabled changing facilities.
Andrew Cowie, vice chairman of Sunderland People First, welcomed efforts to make the new-look park as accessible as possible for disabled people.
The 27-year-old, said: “The park looks great. I am really happy with the work done for people with disabilities.”
* The celebration event runs from 12pm to 4pm on Saturday with music in the bandstand, face-painting, willow-weaving, craft activities and story telling sessions.