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WORKERS are putting the finishing touches to the new-look Barnes Park.

The historic park is due to reopen in May after a mammoth £3.6million facelift aimed at returning it to its glory days.

Work on the park got under way in October 2009 and members of Sunderland City Council’s west area committee got a sneak peak behind the scenes to see how the project is coming along.

Committee chairman Peter Gibson said: “It’s excellent. I’m sure when the park opens in May people will be absolutely amazed with the work that’s been done here.”

Coun Gibson was particularly impressed with work done on the park’s water features.

The lake has been cleared and fitted with an aeration system, and a new bridge will allow visitors to cross the water instead of walking round. An overgrown water cascade has also been uncovered and revamped.

Coun Gibson said: “I’ve been to this park hundreds of times and I’ve never noticed that water cascade before. That was something that really caught my eye today. It looks great.”

The Barnes Park project, mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional cash from council and other sources, is due to be complete in time for the grand reopening on May 21.

Key features of the regeneration scheme include:

l The restoration of historic features such as the cannon, bandstand, railings and gates.

l Disabled and able-bodied play space for all ages, including an adventure play area.

l A sensory and formal garden.

l Rejuvenation of the lake and surrounding area, including a new bridge for the lake.

l Removal of excess shrubbery and tree coverage and adding CCTV cameras to improve the security and deter antisocial behaviour.

l A multi-use games area.

Families have already been enjoying the new play areas at the park.

Council leader Paul Watson, said: “The park looks absolutely tremendous.

“It is packed full of family friendly features which will keep visitors entertained all year around. I can’t wait until we can invite people in to start fully enjoying it.”

Joining councillors and officers on a park visit was Jill Dixon, from Whitburn, who literally holds the key to Barnes’ century of history.

As reported in the Echo, the retired teacher bought the original six-inch 18-carat gold key used at the opening of Barnes Park on August 6 1909 after spotting it in a Christie’s auction catalogue.

Ms Dixon said: “I think what they’ve done with the park is fabulous. I think people living near here are in for a treat.”

Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East, added: “It is great to see this restoration almost completed and to know that this valuable park will soon be back to its best.”