Shoals Rotary Clubs announce sensory playground to be installed at McFarland Park in the fall


FLORENCE, Ala. — Monday afternoon was the centennial celebration for two Rotary clubs in The Shoals with Sheffield being formed in 1920 and Florence in 1921.

Florence Rotary President Pete Key said the occasion spoke volumes on how far the organization has come since its inception.

“To think that in 1921 when this club was first developed, when it was first formed, a person who looked like me probably couldn’t even become a member, but to think on this 100-year anniversary, I’m the president; It shows that we’ve come a long way,” Key said.

In keeping with the tradition of progress, the Florence Rotary, Greater Shoals-Sheffield Rotary, and UNA Rotaract Clubs announced the founding of the Rotary STAR Park—a sensory, tactile, and adaptive recreation playground for all children. It’s an idea that Florence Mayor Andy Betterton suggested when the clubs were deciding on a project for the anniversary.

The STAR Park will be located in McFarland Park underneath the O’Neal Bridge. It will feature playground equipment that’s easily accessible by children with special needs.

“I have a special needs grandson, and so that was the perfect, as far as I was concerned, job for the Rotary Club to take on,” Tricia Lewis, Rotary STAR Park Co-Chair said.

Equipment will include interactive boards, communication panels with sign language and braille, and a wheelchair tricycle track just to name some.

This playground will be the first of its kind in The Shoals that’s available for public use.

“If your presence doesn’t add value, your absence won’t make a difference, and I believe that as Rotarians we’re adding value to this community, and our presence is making a difference,” Key said.

The estimated cost of the playground is around $325,000. It’s expected to be completed by late fall.

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