Unveiling Clay County’s Newest Splash Pad and Natural Playground

The Town of Clay and the Be Healthy project are celebrating the grand opening of a splash pad and natural playground located in what will eventually be a larger community park. After several delays due to material shortages, we’re thrilled to announce that members of the Clay community have a new space to get outside and be active! 

Since we began this cycle of CDC High Obesity Program (HOP) funding for McDowell and Clay Counties in 2019, Be Healthy has supported various projects dedicated to increasing access to healthy foods and physical activity across some of our state’s most rural communities. 

In Clay County alone, we have supported a variety of physical-activity-oriented projects, such as walking trails, indoor recreational facilities, as well as the ongoing natural playground and splash pad developments.

The splash pad is a project that we partnered with the Clay Family Resource Network to complete. The center feature of the splash pad is a fire truck with slides, sprinklers, fountains, and more fun water works to encourage play and help kids stay cool during the warmer months. 

The natural playground was designed and custom-developed by Be Healthy partner, Peter Butler, professor of Landscape Architecture at West Virginia University. The playground features multiple obstacles, including a climbing wall, a slide built along the embankment, an above-ground tunnel decorated with natural flora, and other exciting elements. Both the splash pad and the natural playground are safe, accessible spaces for members of the community to get out and enjoy physical activity. 

Staff members from the WVU School of Public Health and WVU Extension, local leaders, volunteers, and community members attended the grand opening celebration. The mayor of Clay, Josh Shamblin, says “This gives kids a way to get out, be active and get exercise, and not only that, but to stay cool.”

“There’s so many people here. It shows exactly what kind of an impact it could have in just one day,” says WVU School of Public Health Staff Member Christiaan Abildso. 

The Town of Clay plans to add to the space with the splash pad and natural playground, creating a larger community park. Park benches, a pergola, a walking trail, an open-air structure for hosting markets, a parking lot, and refreshed river access portal are some of the amenities the town plans to add. This space will be a community hub that’s inviting for all residents!