Finlay Park Nov. 2017

The iconic Finlay Park fountain in November 2017. The fountain has been in a state of disrepair for years.

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As a parent with young children, one of the first things I do when visiting a new city is head for the biggest playground I can find. When my family arrives at the playground, which is often in a prominent downtown location, we usually see more than just people with young children. An amazing playground might be what draws the families with children, but there are other elements such as art installations, green spaces, walking paths, ice cream stands, music, etc. that attract both locals and tourists, including individuals, couples and families of all ages and backgrounds. Millennium Park in Chicago and the Seattle Center Artists at Play Playground are excellent examples. We’re talking 30-foot slides! These must-see destinations boast massive and unique playgrounds that children (and many adults) can’t resist — a far cry from Finlay Park’s current unimpressive and hard-to-access playground.

While I appreciate the creativity of the City of Columbia partnering with the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a whitewater feature in Finlay Park seems like a potentially complicated and expensive, not to mention unnecessary, idea (i.e. Broad, Saluda, and Congaree Rivers) that would cater to a narrow audience.

Columbia has some wonderful playground areas, such as Owens Field Park and Roy Lynch Park that are enjoyed year round, but we don’t have one marquee public area with a first class playground that is known throughout the city and beyond as the obvious place to go.

Although the playground itself might not be a big money-maker, its ability to attract people to it could be a boon for current and future nearby businesses. The presence of a variety of new businesses around Finlay Park would also likely increase safety in the area and improve connectivity to Main Street and the Vista.

With downtown views and a central location, Finlay Park is the perfect place to reinvent as a more inviting public space, anchored by a giant playground that adults, children, locals and tourists can enjoy in all seasons. Add some water (without the rapids) to play in for those summer months, and you’re golden. Let’s keep it simple, Columbia.

Jonathan Artz


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