WAXAHACHIE — Hard work and dedication of countless individuals was celebrated Thursday afternoon when the ceremonial ribbon was cut for the newly renovated Lee Penn Park.

Years of planning and months of construction revealed a community space that future generations of families can now fully enjoy.

The renovation of the park includes a covered and lighted basketball court, a piped rail fence, new playground structures, a new concrete parking lot, a walking trail, an irrigation system and a covered pavilion.

J&K Excavation completed the work for $813,200.

Pastor Adrian Cooper with Waxahachie Life Church offered a prayer of dedication for the park. In his prayer, Cooper thanked God for the people and the hands that made this renovation possible. He also asked that the renovated facility would open doors in the community and brings people together.

The park previously had a youth center, which was a victim of two fires.

Damage from the fires and the water used to fight it made the building structurally unsafe to occupy. The city looked at whether to repair, replace, or demolish the structure and put something else in place. The decision was made to demolish the building. Residents and the city worked together to identify the direction for the future of the park. Meetings were held to get input from the public, and a committee was formed to generate ideas.

“The community center that was here was damaged by fire, and it was a total loss, and we had to demolish it. That is when the community came out and asked for some sort of replacement and renovation to Penn Park to get the community back in,” Parks and Recreation Director John Smith explained. “With the community’s help and meeting with city council and park board we came up with a wonderful design and came up with funding and here we have it.”

Betty Square Jefferson, who is the NAACP Waxahachie Branch President, expressed her thanks for the work put in both by the community and the city.

“We are just grateful to God that we can stand here and say thank you. We just need to continue to work with one another and make sure that the vision is not lost,” Square Jefferson stated. “We have tried our best to get as much input from out of the community as we could get. Hopefully, we will take these facilities and use them to the best of our ability.”

Square Jefferson encouraged members of the audience to join them and get active in making the city a better place for everyone to live and work in.

The Interdenominational Ministers Alliance is the group that worked with the community to push this project forward. Jesse Gibson, who serves as the chairman of the IMA’s Social Action Committee, addressed the crowd.

“This is a great day for the youth of Waxahachie," Gibson said. "What has taken place today is something that we have been wanting and trying do for years.”

Gibson stated this the completed work seen in the park today would not have been possible without Rosie Spain, who encouraged the committee to make the park renovation a priority. He then presented her with a plaque for her service to the community.

“I appreciate everything that the IMA committee has done,” Spain said. “I hope that we can move on and do other things for the park and for the city.”

Waxahachie City Council Member Chuck Beatty shared his optimism for the future and how this park plays a role in that future.

“We are proud of the east side. I have a lot of fond memories of this park and there is going to be a lot more memories to come. This is a prime example of can be done here in the city,” Beatty shared. “ This is a park that I enjoyed growing up as a boy and I hope that it will be a park for a lot of future generations to come.”

The second phase of the park renovations is set to take place in the first quarter of 2018. This phase will include a renovation of the football field and a restroom building.

“The design and construction documents are being created right now. So hopefully very soon we will be out for a contractor to work on phase two,” Smith said. “We are anticipating having a contractor selected within the next 60-90 days.”

A third phase is planned, which will beautify the area around Penn Park Pool but no date for that renovation has been set at this time. Lee Penn Park is located at 404 N. Getzendaner St. in Waxahachie.