A PLAY area which was set on fire and destroyed by arsonists has been reopened after funds were raised to rebuild it.
The destroyed play area, in South Park, has been replaced with a brand new structure that pays homage to Darlington’s heritage as the birthplace of the railways.
Children from Parkside Childcare in Darlington were invited to come along to the opening and try out the new play structure for the first time – just in time for the start of the school holidays.
Parents were outraged and children left in tears after the pirate ship play area for toddlers in South Park was destroyed by fire in February.
Charity Groundwork North East and Cumbria secured more than £20,000 to replace the play equipment within four months of the old play set being destroyed.
Family fun days were held at the park and donations were made by individuals and organisations including Darlington Borough Council, Darlington’s Bondgate Round Table and County Durham Community Foundation.
Lisa Locke, Tees Valley programme manager for Groundwork, said: “It has been a fantastic achievement and a real community effort.
“Everyone has pulled together to get the project completed in only four months.
“It is a fantastic example of proving what can be done when something like this happens – why should the children have to suffer?
“We have provided something for the future generation,”she added.
Karl Gordon, chairman of Darlington Bondgate Roundtable who officially opened the park with help from children from Parkside Childcare, said: “The park is a real community asset and it is vital that we support it.
“It has been an immense community effort to get the project completed before the school holidays.
Marie Hirst from Friends of South Park added: “It is marvellous – we couldn’t believe it had been completed just in time for the summer holidays.
The opening came as Darlington Borough Council and the town’s police issued a stark warning ahead of the summer holidays following the spate of vandalism in parks across Darlington.
They pledged a “zero tolerance’ approach in dealing with those responsible for incidents which have seen more than £3,000 worth of damage caused to play equipment.