Today’s news:

Juniper Park playground reopens

City officials and western Queens residents celebrated the opening of the renovated Juniper South Playground this week, marking the nearly $1 million the city spent on the area to open a wetland habitat-themed design that is a tribute to the park’s early history as a swamp.

“The playground had fallen into hard times before this, and now we have a beautiful, colorful place with a frog spray shower and lily pads,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, who lives about five blocks from the park.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) secured $783,000 in city funding for the playground, and another $183,000 was allocated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the Juniper South Playground, which officially opened following the renovations of the eastern section of the park in the beginning of April. The ribbon-cutting was held Monday.

“This is one of the greatest parks in New York City,” Crowley said. “Growing up, this was my home park. It’s a park we’ll continue to invest in.”

City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said officials wanted to have a wetland habitat-themed design to recognize what the area once was — a swamp.

The 55-acre park’s name is derived from the Juniper Valley Swamp, which covered an area of about 100 acres from Caldwell Avenue south to Juniper Valley Road. In 1915, the swamp was filled in for the creation of the park and the development of the surrounding area.

Benepe noted the park’s construction is especially important in the weak economy.

“In tough fiscal times you build because it creates jobs and you want people to want to live here,” Benepe said. “The last great period of building parks was in the Great Depression.”

The park’s wetland theme includes a frog statue that will spray water in warm weather, a lily pad design that surrounds the statue, new trees and a painted turtle game. The new playground is more accessible for individuals with disabilities and includes an American with Disabilities Act-compliant swing and water fountain.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said many in the neighborhood would help to maintain the renovated park, including the Juniper Park Civic Association.

“A lot of parks get neglected or abused by the community, but this park has been the pride and joy of this community,” Giordano said. “We hope you bring your children and grandchildren here and enjoy this.”

Juniper Park Civic Association President Robert Holden said his group has worked hard to maintain the park and said he is elated about the improvements.

“The park is the center of our community,” Holden said. “If the park goes, so goes the community.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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