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Make a play date for community playgrounds
Playgrounds and parks are two amenities in most communities that provide a venue for residents to socialize, have fun and enjoy their neighborhoods. Yet, funding for playgrounds and parks often falls to the bottom of many local government priority lists. That hasn’t stopped all communities, however, from filling the need for safe, attractive and enjoyable outdoor space through other means—such as organizing community building projects.In Aldergrove, B.C., for example, residents have banded together to replace an existing playground at Parkside Centennial Elementary School that was deemed unsafe and removed. Together, parents and students have raised more than $20,000 so far, and are appealing to other community members to help them raise the remaining $20,000 they need to complete the project…

Thanks to help from the Langley School District Foundation, donors to the community playground project can receive tax receipts for donations over $25. Residents are optimistic that they’ll be able to raise the other half of the funds required soon and complete the playground as early as September.

Take a cue from Aldergrove’s efforts and consider exploring the possibility of community-built playgrounds in your area:

Assessing the need

  • Survey residents to help measure the need or desire for a playground or park, along with what that playground or park would look like—green space with trees, basketball courts, bike paths, play structures, etc.—and to what end residents are willing to participate to make these things reality. Encourage participation in these surveys by offering an affordable incentive of some sort, like an insulated lunch tote or a bag dispenser branded with the community logo.
  • If there is a need and a desire to move forward, form a committee consisting of local government representatives and a number of residents who are willing to research and champion the project from start to finish.

Fundraising and communicating

  • While community-built playgrounds are often not part of the local government budget, money still has to come from somewhere. Ask committee members to explore fun ways to raise funds together—such as a community spaghetti feed, outdoor benefit concert and others. Consider a brick fundraiser: In return for a small financial contribution, donors can have their names or the names of loved ones engraved in bricks that will then be used to pave the paths surrounding the new playground or park.
  • Don’t forget to make souvenirs for participants of these fundraising events! T-Shirts with a drawing of the proposed playground and the city’s logo on it are great, as are things like an ultimate tote bag or mini fans that they can bring to the park or playground once the project is completed.

The most important priority is to remember that this should be fun! Ask local companies to donate goods or services for the build, from construction materials to food and beverages. Most playground manufacturers offer a community-build support program and can provide additional assistance and instruction throughout the planning and building process. Josh Verdone, a playground design consultant at Kor-Kat, offers these additional tips for the big day:

  • Call ahead to have local services identified on the build site—including sprinkler lines
  • Verify that your design plans and installation instructions are in-line with the site
  • Work with the public works department or the transportation office to offload and secure equipment
  • Review all of the installation instructions thoroughly before build day and consult with city managers
  • Make sure the site has been prepared and graded properly
  • Plan ahead to allow for concrete to cure
  • Provide adequate dumpster and haul off packaging

Most importantly, and throughout the process, communicate with residents about how and why this project is exciting and the benefits it will offer to them—a place to enjoy, a bump in home value, a great view. It’s play time!

Langmann, Kurt. “100 for 100 raises cash for playground.Aldergrove Star Web. 3 Mar. 2011.

Verdone, Josh.”Save Thousands With a Community Built Playground.“Playground and Park Equipment Specialties by KorKat. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.

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