- Associated Press - Friday, April 7, 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - There aren’t many trees along Greensboro Avenue where the tornado first touched down in Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.

That’s why the new, 21-foot treehouse built in the shape of a tree stands out at Harmon Park in a newly rebuilt playground alongside the thoroughfare. Made of steel and reinforced concrete, the treehouse is the centerpiece of Harmon Field in Rosedale Park, and is meant to signify the strength of the community and the rebuilding that has taken place.

The tornado leveled the park, playground and field, near the spot where the tornado touched down and began a 5.3-mile path across Tuscaloosa. Six years later, with money from the city of Tuscaloosa and many donations, the playground is again open to the public.

“It’s much bigger and better than it was before,” said Becky Booker, public relations and marketing manager for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.

Made of a steel frame wrapped in glass fiber reinforced concrete, the custom treehouse is the centerpiece of the $637,000 playground. It was hand-sculpted and hand-painted and is the tallest piece ever designed by the manufacturer, GameTime. Booker said it could be the tallest treehouse in the Southeast.

The playground also features a net tunnel, boulder climber, dual zip track with accessible harness and a quad pod whirl.

Gary Minor, the executive director of the recreation authority, said the park will help rejuvenate the neighborhood.

“We are appreciative of the vision of our city leaders and stakeholders who have made this park renovation possible,” Minor said. “While it serves as a remembrance of the April 2011 tornado, it demonstrates the resilience of our residents and is a prominent feature of the western terminus of the City Walk.”

The City Walk recreational trail is a multi-use path that’s designed to traverse the span of the tornado, which killed more than 50 people in Tuscaloosa on a day that about 250 died statewide.

Tuscaloosa contributed money for the playground’s construction, along with donations to the PARA Foundation and from the Community Foundation of West Alabama, American Beverage Foundation, Alabama Beverage Association, Kiwanis Club of Greater Tuscaloosa, Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa and Alabama Power Foundation. Talladega Superspeedway provided the park’s trees.

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, https://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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