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Community rallies together to build a new playground

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Volunteers construct a playground at Groton Memorial Park on Saturday.

GROTON — Linda VanBerkom smiled as she looked upon the group of community members, young and old, working together to build a new playground at Groton Memorial Park.

She is not good with the power tools or heavy equipment, but whether it be shoveling dirt, racking stones or laying tarps, she was eager to lend her assistance in any way she could.

The park is special to her. She lives in Ithaca now, but grew up in Groton and said she would frequently play on the playground in the park when she was younger. More than 40 years later the park remained the same, but it had deteriorated and become unsafe for children. So it meant a lot to her to be able to help building a new playground.

“There was so little for kids to do,” VanBerkom said. “This will be so much nicer for kids.”

Many of the more than 140 community members who volunteered their time in building the playground, between Friday and Saturday, shared VanBerkom’s sentiment for the park — even the younger generation of helpers.

Wilson Boyce, 14, volunteered because he said he used to play in the park when he was younger and wanted to help build the new playground for the next generation of young park-goers.

The same went for 13-year-old Robert Houston, who volunteered with the rest of his Groton Middle School football team. He said he always came to the park with his grandmother, but the playground became shabby with old wooden fixtures and curse words spray painted throughout it.

“Now it (the new playground) is safe for kids,” Houston said. “It is a better
environment.”

A plan for renovating the playground and pool area in the park has been in development for the past 10 years, according to Jennifer Jones, village of Groton director of recreation.
The village received a state grant for $140,000 through the help of state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford), in September and began working with Parkitects Inc., a playground design company in Lansing, to design and build the playground.

The funding goes toward upgrades to the pool area, such as a new pump, bath houses and more. And to the creation of the new playground, which includes eight new swings — four for young children and four for older children — and two play areas.

Project manager with Parkitects, Karen Armstrong, helped the village through the process, from planning finances to directing the construction of the playground. She said the play areas are split, with one for kids ages 2 to 5, and the other for kids ages 5 to 12.

For the younger children, she said there are more learning activities — smaller equipment stimulating puzzles and games. And the older kids have the bigger, typical playground equipment — cable swings and various climbing equipment.

“There is something for every child,” Armstrong said.

She said her team of volunteers helped construction be ahead of schedule by the end of the day Friday, allowing for the playground to easily be completed by
6 p.m. Saturday.

Jones said a ribbon cutting for the new playground will be held Oct. 22, where many community members will gather to celebrate.

“It has been a long time coming,” Jones said.

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