NEW PORT RICHEY — A ribbon cutting Thursday will open the new playground at Grey Preserve in New Port Richey. Then the real test begins — whether the new equipment earns the good romping seal of approval from local kids. Some sections are meant to appeal mostly to children ages 2-5, Craig McCart explained as immediate past president of Rotary Club of New Port Richey. Other areas are ideal for youngsters ages 5 to 12. Everything will be handicapped accessible. The service club financed construction of the project that cost about $30,000, McCart said. A Rotary district grant provided $4,750 toward the cause. The 80-acre Grey Preserve, along Pithlachascotee River, was the last city park with no playground facility, according to Douglas Benjamin Jr., New Port Richey Rotary president.
Several years ago, the club was responsible for building a picnic shelter and canoe launch at the preserve. City officials hope the addition will attract more visitors to Grey Preserve, Parks and Recreation Director Elaine Smith said. City crews handled site preparation for the playground project near picnic shelters. “It’s 80 acres of wilderness preserve right in the middle of New Port Richey,” Smith said. “A lot of people don’t even realize you can really get back to nature here.” The park features 1,600 feet of boardwalk that overlooks much of the river and takes people to a small fishing pier, Smith said. People can launch canoes and kayaks. An elevated nature observation deck delights birdwatchers. “The Audubon Society actually has reported 144 species of birds in Grey Preserve,” Smith said. The preserve is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Park visitors also have spotted deer, gopher tortoises, manatees, wild boars and wild turkeys. The site got its name in honor of New Port Richey pioneer James E. Grey, who died in 1985. Visitors can use Plathe Road east of Rowan Road to get to the park entrance. Many people, however, still travel east along Louisiana Avenue to get to the entrance. For details about the playground ribbon cutting call (727) 841-4560.