FOLEY – After months of waiting on construction, dozens of Foley children raced through the gates to try out the swings, slides and other attractions as the Sara Thompson Kids Park opened.

City officials kicked off the Memorial Day holiday weekend with a ribbon cutting on the morning of Saturday, May 27.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the park has much more to offer than parks that older residents might remember from their childhood.

“This is incredible,” Hellmich said. “I wish I’d had this when I was growing up. We had a few slides and that was fun, but this is really cool.”

The mayor praised the work done by city employees in getting the park built and open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

“I’d like to thank all the departments in the city and special things to the Public Works and Parks and Recreation Department for the demolition, preservation and construction assistance with our wonderful new park,” Hellmich said. “They worked really hard to get this done today.”

The park replaces the Kids Park that was built in 2001. Hellmich said that while the old park was demolished, many of the items in the facility were preserved and will be used in other locations. Foley High School arts students will also reconstruct some of the animal figures from the original facility to be placed at the new park and at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve.

The Foley City Council voted in May 2023 to name the new park for Sara Thompson. Thompson, a second-grade teacher at Foley Elementary School, and her students helped organize the effort to build Foley’s first Kids Park in 2001.

“With the help of over 500 community volunteers, the Foley Kids Park was built on March 21 and 22, 2001,” Hellmich siad. “Thanks to the students who always believed we could do it and to the teachers who helped students realize that they can move mountains even in Foley Alabama, and we try to maintain as much and carry forward with what and preserve what we could to bring him to this part to maintain that idea.”

Hellmich said the current generation of Foley children also played a part in the creation of the new park. Children decided how the park would look in an online vote on the design.

“We want to thank our children in our community who, once again, decided on what they want for our future with over 2,500 votes to determine our new park and think that they did a great job selecting the park that you see behind us,” Hellmich said during the opening.

City officials also plan to replace the pavilion next to the park that was also torn down during the demolition process and to build a new fence around the park.

The Sara Thompson Kids Park is located near the Max Griffin Park Pool and the Foley Skate Park on West Verbena Avenue.