Volunteers needed to build playground

Construction will take place over nine days.

Outside: Sports, Activities, Events

April 07, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

When Debra Evans gazed at the grounds around Memorial Stadium in 1999, she didn't see a landscape hospitable to children - or anybody, really.

"There was just an empty field with a big stadium," she said. "Grass was growing between cracks in the parking lot."

After a long campaign to set aside some of this land for public use, workers will begin construction today on a yet-to-be named playground. But, help is needed to build it.

When completed, the playground will include swings, a castle, a volcano, picnic tables, an oversized crab, multiple slides and a pavilion where Evans hopes seniors and children will mix and chat. "In my day, there was no walls between our seniors and our youth," said Evans, "I want that back."

Evans is the director of Community Built Playground Inc., a nonprofit organization formed to coordinate building efforts for the project. The group has raised more than $300,000, mostly in private donations, for the design and materials.

In total, it will take 150 to 300 people to staff the construction site for three shifts a day over the course of nine days. She estimates that, by the end, a total of 4,000 people will work on the playground.

Volunteers were initially encouraged to register via the organization's Web site, www.stadiumplayground.com, but at this point, Evans is encouraging people to just show up and lend a hand.

Jobs will include spreading mulch, piecing together bridges, slides and jungle gyms. Volunteers will put ladders together and lay sidewalk.

Evans hopes to recruit people skilled in carpentry, but also "people who are not very familiar with tools but are willing to follow instructions and have fun," she said.

Those who can't donate time are encouraged to donate tools. The project needs saws, hammers, wheelbarrows, levels and drills. The organization will engrave the owners' names on the items - and they've set money aside to replace any tools that are damaged.

Evans is also looking for people to make and serve food to volunteers and people to help watch children at the day-care area.

All volunteers will sign in at a welcome tent and be assigned to a team.

"It might look like chaos, but it isn't," said Michael Cohen, a project manager with Leathers & Associates, the Ithaca, N.Y., firm that designed and will oversee construction of the playground. "If you look closely, you'll see the work getting done."

The company has built nearly 2,000 similar playgrounds in the United States and abroad - all using a similar community participation model.

Evans believes that the work will pay off.

"Volunteers will come back and say, `I worked on this spot here,'" she said. "They'll say, `I put this slide together.'"

The playground site is at Stadium Place next to the Weinberg YMCA (900 E. 33rd St.). Those interested in volunteering can visit www.stadiumplayground.com to register or just show up. Community Built Playground Inc. is looking for volunteers from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. today; 8 a.m.-noon, 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. tomorrow -Sunday. They are also looking for people 8 a.m.-noon, 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. April 13-17.

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