02-08-20 | Department

Creating a Healthy Place

David Carnes Park
by Amanda Carmichael, Mace+Carmichael

Thanks to funding from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, the nine-acre BlueCross Healthy Place at David Carnes Park opened last year in Memphis. Originally named after Carnes, a blacksmith who was purportedly the area's first African-American landowner, the playground includes a plaque to commemorate this distinction in a custom-designed blacksmith shop play area.
An obstacle course (left) and workout area allows kids young and old to increase fitness while having fun.
An obstacle course (left) and workout area allows kids young and old to increase fitness while having fun.
The Challenge Course includes a 40-yard dash. In addition, the park features a large multi-purpose field for team sports. Both the Challenge Course and the field are surfaced with professional-grade accessible synthetic turf.
The playground features GameTime play and fitness equipment for people of all ages and abilities, including two playgrounds, a splash pad and a Challenge CourseA(R).
One of the play areas was designed for ages 2 to 5 and the other for ages 5 to 12. Ramped access throughout the play structures, ground-level play activities, multi-user swings, and poured rubber surfacing help make them very accessible.
The play area was designed using the research found in Me2A(R): 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground DesignA(R) from Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities. Because of its research-based design, PlayCore designated the play area as a National Demonstration Site for Inclusive Play.

A new BlueCross Healthy Place in the Whitehaven community of Memphis, Tennessee, opened in the summer of 2019. The nine-acre community greenspace was transformed with GameTime play and fitness amenities for people of all ages and abilities, including two playgrounds, a splash pad, Challenge CourseA(R) and other outdoor fitness equipment, walking trails and a community pavilion. It was renamed BlueCross Healthy Place at David Carnes Park. The year-long project with a budget of $5.4 million was made possible by funding from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation.

During the community planning meetings, the play equipment manufacturer learned from local historians the park was originally named for Memphis' first African-American landowner - a blacksmith named David Carnes. It was also learned from members of the Carnes family, who still live in Memphis, the park used to be the Carnes family homeplace. It was once filled with acres of fruit trees and the sound of the nearby blacksmith forge. To honor Mr. Carnes, the playground equipment manufacturer created a historical marker that serves as an imaginative play area. The custom-designed blacksmith shop includes a plaque so future generations will learn about David Carnes and the Whitehaven community. Located near the David Carnes historical marker is a large covered pavilion with a dozen picnic tables, which was a piece of the park that was requested by the community members.

In his remarks at a ribbon-cutting in August, Memphis mayor Jim Strickland said, "It's a great day for Whitehaven. This place is a total transformation of David Carnes Park. An asset like this will be invaluable to this community."


The equipment manufacturer served as designer and general contractor of the project. "One of the most satisfying things we do as a company is to help communities create fun, active and healthy places for families," said Robert Barron, senior vice president of the company. "BlueCross is committed to the health and wellness of Tennesseans. We are proud to be their partner in this effort."

The playground is an inclusive playground and features play areas for ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12. There is ramped access throughout the play structures, ground-level play activities like an accessible seesaw and multi-user swings, and poured rubber surfacing, which are all part of the playground that makes it easy to access for everyone. Adjacent to the playgrounds is an ADA accessible splash pad with a zero-entry design, perfect for Memphis' hot summers.

There is a beautiful stand of old-growth trees throughout the center of the park that allows for families to be active in nature. Walking paths were designed through this mini forest and around the perimeter of the park. Along the lower trail are pockets of play for children to climb and explore. Throughout the upper path, there are pockets with fitness equipment like chest press, chin-up bars, etc. for adults to exercise. The outdoor fitness areas are designed using research from the parent company's scholar network and designated as a National Demonstration Site for Adult Fitness as well.

There is also a Challenge Course, a timed obstacle course for children and adults, at David Carnes Park. It includes a 40-yard dash so friends and family can compete with one another. There is a large multi-purpose field for team sports like soccer or football. The Challenge Course, 40-yard dash and athletic field all feature professional-grade accessible synthetic turf.

Along with the playground equipment manufacturer, many partners made the project a reality, including Barge Design Solutions, Cunningham Recreation, and RJR Enterprises. Barge architects prepared the master plan and landscape transformation of the park.

Cunningham Recreation is the playground equipment manufacturer's exclusive representative in Memphis. They coordinated the installation of the new play and fitness amenities and worked closely with RJR Enterprises to manage the construction process. With help from local subcontractors, landscapers, and laborers, the park came together through hard work and a commitment to creating a place unlike any other in the state of Tennessee.

From the first community meetings to the grand opening ribbon-cutting, the equipment manufacturer was on the ground and deeply involved to ensure the project was the perfect place for Memphis - a BlueCross Healthy Place.

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2020.

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