May 21, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Hundreds of Skaneateles community members, groups and local businesses spent hours of their weekend — some spent their entire weekend — out in the sun and summer weather at Austin Park this past weekend helping to build in three days a new playground for Skaneateles.
The Austin Park playground project, sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Council of Skaneateles, came to fruition May 18 through May 20 after nearly one year of fundraising and organizational efforts.
At the end of the day Sunday, May 20, the Skaneateles community had a new, state-of-the-art playground far larger than the previous one, with equipment for children, a fitness area for adults and wheelchair accessibility for all.
“This has been an amazing turnout,” said PARCS member Meg Keady on Saturday, May 19. “Even now, it’s the noon shift change and no one wants to leave. It gets contagious; everyone wants to stay and see it finished.”
With temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s throughout the weekend and clear skies, the weather was perfect for the build. In addition to that, no major problems or issues arose, no equipment parts were missing and everything was delivered on time. “You couldn’t ask for a more synchronized build,” Keady said.
The Austin Park playground improvement project began in June 2011 by a core group of local parents and community members who felt the playground at that time was old, outdated and unsafe. Fundraising and visibility of the project took off in July when the family of 22-month-old Cameron Leigh Kenan, who died in July and whose mother was also a member of PARCS, requested donations be made to PARCS in lieu of flowers.
Since that time, PARCS has held numerous fundraising events and received vast support from local businesses and individuals. The group’s goal of $152,000 to build the playground was met and surpassed this spring, and donations continue to come in. The additional money goes towards extra expenses that continue to crop up, as well as towards additional landscaping, benches, a new drinking fountain and even awnings over some of the equipment, Keady said.
PARCS worked with playground design company Parkitects, Inc., to create the new playground with children’s equipment, sandboxes, fitness areas for youths and adults, state-of-the-art safety surfacing, wheelchair accessibility, and a returning of green space to the park with the addition of new grass, shrubs, bushes and trees.
The playground build began about three weeks ago, when Skaneateles Village Department of Public Works employees began doing some of the foundation work for the various equipment sites. On Thursday, May 17, holes were dug for all the equipment poles. On Friday, May 18, holes continued to be dug, but most of the work concerned the pre-assembly of the various playground equipment pieces. Saturday and Sunday saw the full equipment set-up, the landscape grading, and the importing and laying down of four tractor trailers full of mulch.
The volunteer turnout for the project exceeded everyone’s expectations. Men and women of all ages from all walks of life turned out to help. In addition to community individuals, members of numerous groups of people showed up to help, such as: Skaneateles Rotary and Sunrise Rotary, Welch Allyn, SkanRaces.com, Victory Sports Medicine, Erie Materials, and Skaneateles High School hockey team athletes.
Food donations were provided by 30 different businesses and individuals.
“If I think about it I’ll start crying,” said PARCS member Amy Allyn. “I feel overwhelmed with the generosity of everyone, from the food to the contractors, to the kids. The greatest thing about it all is the mixture of people: from the big wigs at Welch Allyn to stay-at-home moms — every level of person is here.”
“This is just awesome, what a great cause,” said volunteer Julie Furness, a Welch Allyn employee.
Chuck O’Neil, president of Skaneateles Rotary and PARCS treasurer, said, “This is a wonderful community endeavor that benefits all age groups. It’s really impressive the number of community members that have come out to help. And it’s very fortunate we’ve had such perfect weather.”
About 30 volunteers from both the Skaneateles Rotary and Sunrise Rotary clubs — all wearing orange shorts — volunteered in different groups on both Friday and Saturday, O’Neil said.
Volunteer Tim McNally said the Austin Park playground build was a much different physical experience than the Waterman Elementary School playground build a few years ago, in which he also participated. “For that one, it rained like crazy, the equipment kept getting stuck, there was mud everywhere, people were covered head to toe,” he said. “But it was an equally enjoyable experience.”
McNally said Saturday the Austin Park project was going smoothly and no one could ask for a better group of volunteers to do the work. “I just feel lucky to be here and be involved,” he said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.