Sunday, October 16, 2005

The light at the end of the playground

At the far end of the blacktop, at the top of a hill overlooking a field, with a lone mountain as a backdrop, sits a wooden structure that has stood the test of time. It has withstood rain, snow, wind, children, teenagers and starstruck lovers. It is a testament to parents and teachers who raised funds and then put their love and sweat into erecting a new playground for their children and future children to play on.

It has nooks and crannies, benches, tires, a bridge a fire pole, a slide and several climbing area. It also has broken boards, rough edges, dry rotted tires that contain hornet nests and railings that give splinters daily. The kids love it, but it needs a bit of work. A little TLC, some elbow grease, a sander and some new paint and it will be as good as new. Or at least a bit better.

4 years ago a group got together and decided it was high time the school had a new playground. These old wooden structures only have a shelf life of x amount of years, and ours had reached its prime. The idea was to do it in two parts. Tackle the lower part of the playground first, and then eventually move to the top. After 4 years of selling carnations and hotdogs and burgers, 4 years of soliciting businesses and local townspeople, 4 years of wondering if we'd ever have enough money... we spent this past weekend building a new playground.

Forget that it rained all day Friday and was cold and windy. Forget that it poured so hard Friday night we had to cancel our construction yesterday and bring in wet-vac's to get some of the water out of the post holes. Forget that we had a high wind advisory today and that it was almost unbearable to be out there in the elements. And how could anyone forget the mud that threatened to suck us in like quicksand. It was miserable. But it was worth every minute.

When the kids get to school tomorrow morning, this is what will greet them:

This is the new "big piece" as we've dubbed it, with the old wooden structure at the top of the hill in the background. It has a windy slide, a climbing wall, a myriad of things to climb on and jump from, a contraption that you can hold onto and slide across, a seat that you can sit in and bounce and rotate and some stuff that I'm not even sure what it does. It still needs to have soil brought in, and pea-stone to bring it up about a foot higher to where it needs to be, and some other nitty gritty things before the kids can use it, but it's done.

It sits in a spot of the playground that the kids were a bit sad to see dug up. In the spring it is a vernal pool. The rain and melting snow bring in a sort of little swamp that is home to tadpoles and frogs and all other sorts of interesting life. And there was a lot of grumbling when the grounds crew cleared the spot. I was checking out the drainage situation today, and I think much to their pleasure that we'll still have tadpoles in the spring. Only time will tell.

This little piece sits at the other end of the lower field, next to the baseball field. (don't let the name fool you, we play kickball there, and only kickball.) It was designed to be used for P.E. purposes..but the kids will still be able to use it during recess. Eventually we will move the swing set over some, and add a picnic table down-field and call it a day.

Our plans had included eventually replacing the old wooden structure, but after 4 long years, we decided we'll just repair and repaint it and let it be. Besides, the grass roots SOS campaign (Save Our Structure) the kids have launched has been a little touching. As I stool there today, frozen to my bones and wet and muddy, I kept expecting to have someone shake me awake and for it all to be a dream. It seems like after all these years, it hardly is possible that we have a new playground.

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