SPICER - Elementary school students at Prairie Woods Elementary gave their best suggestions Thursday morning for the design of a new custom-built playground at the Spicer City Park. John Dean, playground designer with Leathers and Associates of I...
SPICER - Elementary school students at Prairie Woods Elementary gave their best suggestions Thursday morning for the design of a new custom-built playground at the Spicer City Park. John Dean, playground designer with Leathers and Associates of Ithaca, N.Y., visited nine classrooms to get the students' input for the playground design. Expectations are that the construction of the project will happen next spring.
Some of the student suggestions from John Johnson's fourth-grade class: a fire pole, alligators -- but not "real" ones, a castle and a human hamster wheel. The first-graders in Jackie Orson's class were fixated on spinning swings and merry-go-rounds.
Dean tried to steer the conversation away from spinning things -- because they tend to make children queasy.
"We could do a big rubber bridge that bounces like a trampoline," he told the class.
After spending the morning with the elementary students, Dean spent the afternoon working on the design, which was unveiled to the public that evening at the Prairie Meadows School in Spicer.
Spicer's park board has moved up the playground project because the existing park equipment presents safety issues, according to Spicer Design Committee member Rolf Figenskau. The initial plan was to begin the playground planning process next spring.
The custom playground is the first part of Spicer's plan to improve the city park.
Plans include a new gateway to the park, a pavilion, waterfront stage, boardwalk, boat ramps, sailboat moorings and bike trail connections.
The city has $20,000 of park board reserve funds in the 2007 budget earmarked for playground equipment, which would have been spent to replace the old equipment, according to Jean Spaulding, Spicer economic development director. She stressed that citizens' taxes aren't going to increase for the playground.
"We're not asking for more than that from the city budget," she explained. "This is a grassroots fundraising effort from the community."
The success -- and size -- of the playground depends on the community, Spaulding said, noting that citizens can donate $8 for one board or $5,000 for a tower. "If everyone does their thing, it will happen," she said.
The playground project could cost as much as $125,000 in materials and labor, but organizers expect to raise donations over the winter. The donations aren't limited to lumber, nails and the use of power tools, Figenskau said.
"We will even need people to watch the children while their parents donate their time," he said.
Meeting with the children is as much about gathering their ideas as it is about creating a buzz about the project and garnering community support for the community project, Dean said.
"These kids are getting the 'barn-raising' effect,'" he said. "The kids are the high octane fuel of the barn raising."
Community support is needed for the playground, which will take five days and hundreds of volunteers to build, he said. The company worked with Montevideo to build a similar project this summer in Smith Park. A total 1,800 volunteers worked for four days to complete that project.
Leathers has completed some 20 projects in Minnesota and about 1,800 around the country. Dean noted that the project will need to draw on both skilled and unskilled labor, and oftentimes, the volunteers are called upon because they have the tools and the ability to use them.
In the end, Dean said, the volunteers will build more than a playground. "This is more than building a very neat playground, it is about building community," he said.
If you'd like to donate time, money or materials for the Spicer playground, contact any member of the Spicer Design Committee or city hall, 796-5562. For more information on Leathers, visit www.leathersassociates.com .