Playground will be in honor of Zahra Baker

Hickory leaders broke ground Wednesday on a playground in honor of Zahra Baker on what would have been the girl's 12th birthday.

The playground is being built at Kiwanis Park at 805 Sixth St. SE, in Hickory, and is expected to open next spring.

The playground is meant to be accessible for all children, including those with special needs. Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright said earlier this fall that the park will have features like a semi-rigid, injury-resistant surface and, he hopes, a wheelchair-accessible treehouse.

More than $170,000 has been raised for the project.

Zahra was reported missing last October. Parts of the girl's body were found weeks later, dismembered and scattered.

Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison in September after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. But in an interview with the Observer last month, Baker insisted she was innocent.

The case of the little girl with the freckled face drew worldwide attention. Many say they were inspired by how she'd fought two bouts of cancer and wore a prosthesis after losing her leg. She also had a hearing impairment.