Community raises new playground in one week

Volunteers flocked to City Park in Winters over the last week, to build an entire new playground from the ground up in seven days.

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From bare ground at City Park last week, a new play structure emerged, was shaped, and finally finished on Sunday. A new generation of children will now have a safe place to play, thanks to many of their own parents who were given a place to play when their own parents built the first playground nearly 30 years ago.

On Monday, Oct. 9, volunteers poured in to dig post holes and finish board and planks. In the days that followed, the park was a beehive of activity as a steady stream of volunteers turned out to sand, stain, hammer, saw and do whatever else needed to be done. Many arrived unskilled and left knowing how to handle a router or sander.

Coordinating that mass effort, after almost two years of relentless fundraising for Project Playground, were Emarie VanGalio and Moyra Barsotti, who saw the fruits of their labors materializing before their eyes last week.

Barsotti reports that more than 120 volunteers turned out each day last week, taking three-hour shifts from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., cumulatively putting in 11,500 wo/man hours. With a strong turnout, Barsotti says Project Playground stayed on track both with its timeline and budget.

VanGalio says that not only did the project stay within budget, the grand total of more than $450,000 created extra funds that allowed them to increase the footprint of the playground, as well as add in a few extras, such as light fixtures and relocating the old plastic toddler structure to another park in town. She says the remaining leftover funds will be used to maintain the new play structure.

A ribbon-cutting was held to celebrate the park on Sunday, Oct. 15, and yet more volunteers turned up to clean up the work area. On Monday, Winters children were invited to come play on their new playground.

Both VanGalio and Barsotti emphasize that there is much more to Project Playground than  simply a big, new play structure.

“Last week was an amazing experience on so many different levels,” says VanGalio, praising “the selflessness of the community” for its dedication. compassion and generosity. “These are all emblematic of Winters and the people who call it home.”

As one who grew up playing on the old Robert Leathers playground after her own mother had participated in building it, Emarie says children will learn about community and their own role in it.

This is a special park. As parents, we must teach our children to be the keepers and respect it and those who play on it. Like my family and friends did in 1989, we are passing the torch to them. One day they will be called upon to rebuild.”

Barsotti agrees that parents need to tell their children how both City Park playgrounds, old and new, came to be.

“If there is one message we would have for our children, it’s that the playground forever be a reminder to them that they can do anything they put their minds to if they are willing to work for it. And also, that whatever our differences, the common thread among all parents is the limitless love we have for our children and our desire to see them play and be happy.”

“If you build it, they will play” was Project Playground’s motto, and now, the playground is built, and is ready for children of all ages to come, play and be happy.

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