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New Musical Garden at Local Park thanks to AARP Community Challenge Grant


Thanks to a grant from AARP, everyone can share in the joy and freedom of playing all the right notes at a new musical garden in Charles D. Owen Park. Thoughtful consideration was given to the sensory, physical, social-emotional, and developmental features of the new outdoor play space. To complement the natural surroundings, the collection includes four colorful flower gongs, lilypad cymbals, and a tenor tree.

“Music has positive effects on learning, memory, and our ability to grow as caring and connected individuals,” according to Josh O’Conner, Director of Buncombe County Recreation Services. “Nature also has similar effects, stimulating the brain in a way that facilitates the cognitive function and neural connectivity necessary for healthy intellectual, social, and physical development. We’ve created an inviting musical experience for everyone in our community. This space will be further enhanced throughout the next several months with tiles along the existing path created by community members with themes of compassion, peace, and diversity. There are no bad notes when you harmoniously blend the positive power of music and community.”

In fact, there are no wrong notes. The instruments were developed by Freenotes Harmony Park, a company dedicated to removing barriers to improvisational music training. The unique variety of sound qualities and pitch ranges are strategically grouped to complement the environment with no sharps or flats. The ergonomics of these instruments are designed to be played with large coordinated muscles of the arms and hands, not tiny muscles of the fingers. The multigenerational space is designed for all ages and abilities.

Buncombe County was awarded a 2019 AARP Community Change grant because the “quick action” project helps create a vibrant public place by improving an open space, park, and access to other amenities. Annually, less than 8 percent of applicants are awarded a grant for projects that help communities make immediate improvements while jumpstarting long-term progress to support residents of all ages.

“AARP’s teams on the ground across the country hear from mayors, local leaders, and residents about the value of getting quick wins to create long-term change. We developed the Community Challenge grant program to answer that call and help build momentum for more livable communities nationwide,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. “This year, we are proud to fund even more projects across the nation.”

Charles D. Owen Park is located on 875 Warren Wilson Road in East Asheville/Swannanoa.

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Josh O'Conner
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Asheville, NC 28801

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