Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

New glow-in-the-dark park underway

Sean Magistrado
The 27-foot sphere, nicknamed the “Crown Jewel,” is ready for visitors.

The country’s first glow-in-the-dark playground is breaking ground in Farmers Branch. The one-of-a-kind playground, located at the northwest corner of Valley View Lane and Tom Field Road, is projected to open in late 2023.

Joya, which translates to jewel in Spanish, is will be the crown jewel of playgrounds, according to the park’s website The park includes a 27-foot sphere situated at the center of the complex, a zip line, an obstacle course and other amenities. Within the sphere itself are six climbing levels as well as swings and slides. There is an additional area encompassing 7,000 square feet, the Tot Playground, which is intended for toddlers and includes ground-level and ramp-structured play areas.

According to the website, “The vision for Joya was brought about through surveying the community and talking to a lot of kids.” Intending to introduce a signature play space to the community of Farmers Branch, the city’s parks and recreation staff, along with city leadership, came together to design the unique concept. 

Spinning chairs at playground.
“The Spine Zone” features spinning chairs. (Sean Magistrado)

The concept for Joya is the brainchild of Deputy City Manager Michael Mashburn. While aware of the challenges in developing such an ambitious project, Mashburn said he is nonetheless excited to see how the local community rallies around the park.

“Our primary focus is on providing top-tier services and amenities to our residents,” Mashburn said. “Pioneering a new path and creating something that has not been done before is certainly challenging, but we are also incredibly excited to offer our community a distinctive amenity they can be proud of.” Mashburn said Farmers Branch has proudly declared itself a “City in a Park” for many years. However, the city lacked a signature park that truly embodied this identity.

A grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife, as well as funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, catapulted the project from a dream into reality.

The grant poured $750,000 into the funding while the ARPA funds contributed $4,000,000. Matching city funds also contributed an extra $750,000 to the project.

Mashburn said the project was made possible through a combination of groups working together.

He said, “Joya has been made possible through the leadership of our city council, city administration and the parks and recreation professionals that have coordinated every aspect of the design and construction.”

Mashburn said he believes when planning for new resources on a project, he and his colleagues must ask themselves a question: What need is this project setting for our citizens?

“Joya will not only provide a one-of-a-kind experience, but it will also be a free amenity for residents to enjoy in the evening during our hottest months,” Mashburn said.

Kerry Phillips, parks superintendent of Farmers Branch, said he believes his team’s favorite aspect of the development process has been the excitement and positive feedback they have received.

“People are really excited and that makes all the hard parts worth it,” Phillips said. “We’ve received positive local, regional, and national news coverage over this project and that is a very positive thing for the City of Farmers Branch.”

Residents have noticed the hard work Mashburn, Phillips and their team have devoted to the project. Kirk Wooldridge, a local guide, said he commends the work being done. In a review of the park’s construction, Wooldridge said, “They have been working hard to get this thing going.”

Phillips said when the playground opens, there will be few restrictions placed upon visitors. “Joya will be free and open to everyone,” Phillips said. “The playground will be open during the day, and the lights will come on near dusk.”

However, Phillips said visitors should treat the park with care. “We expect users of the park to pick up after themselves and treat the features and equipment with respect,” he said. 

An official date for the park’s grand opening has not been announced as of publication.

“The date and event details will be posted at and on our parks and recreation Facebook page,” Phillips said.

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