Young visitors will be able to climb cornstalks — but not the real kind — once the Carroll County Farm Museum’s new playground is complete.

The Carroll County commissioners on Thursday unanimously awarded the contract for a farm-themed playground to Cunningham Recreation of Queenstown for nearly $160,000.

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“We wanted a theme that would correspond with the farm museum itself and they came closest to hitting that mark," farm museum advisory board Chairman Ralph Robertson said. “When we get this done, I think it’s something we’ll be really proud of.”

Joanne Weant, farm museum manager, described the new playground as having climbing structures that resemble corn stalks, a tractor, and a barn, spanning a little less than 1,800 square feet. Educational farm facts will be posted around the structure, she said.

“The playground will basically enhance everyone’s experience,” Weant said after the meeting. “We’re very excited.”

The cost of the playground is provided for within the county budget, according to a document attached to the agenda. The Bureau of Purchasing received proposals from six bidders and an evaluation committee ranked them, with Cunningham scoring the highest, the document reads. Cunningham has built several playgrounds in Carroll, including those at Bear Branch Nature Center in Westminster and Krimgold Park in Woodbine, Weant said.

The farm museum has been without a playground all spring and summer since the old structure was removed. Weant said the wooden structure was at least 20 years old and the surrounding area often collected water, as it was located on a downhill slope. The ground where the new playground will be, next to the chicken coops, has been prepared to prevent such problems.

“This was a major drainage issue to address,” Weant said.

Before the playground contract was approved, they had to redirect water drainage and then install a concrete pad and sidewalks, according to Weant. Thomas, Bennett & Hunter Inc. of Westminster and Portland Cement in Union Bridge provided the work for a reduced rate, Weant said. The concrete pad was complete just in time for the new chicken coops to be placed on it before the July 4th celebration, she said. The playground will adjoin the concrete pad and sidewalk, Weant said.

The playground will meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and allow for a larger number of children to play, according to Weant. She said the structure will be designed for ages 2 to 12.

"Our hope is to have the playground in place for our Fall Harvest Celebration on October 12,” Weant said.

The farm museum’s advisory board decided that replacing the playground was a top priority, Weant said, as it is a “huge draw” for children. Weant said they did not seek grant funding because there was uncertainty over what the farm museum could qualify for and because applying for grants can be a lengthy process.

“We didn’t really have time to wait,” she said.

Visitors will be able to access the playground any time the farm museum is open.

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