|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 Lancaster, Wisc., for example, residents banded together to replace an existing playground in the community that was two decades old and had deteriorated. Together, they raised more than $100,000! And, instead of incurring additional costs to contract with a construction company to actually build the playground, they recruited 1,000 area residents to do so instead.|
Community members there site the biggest reason for their success as the effort the local government and school put into making the project one driven by the community, for the community.
“First, we didn’t have a playground like this in the community,” said the local school principal, Jamie Nutter. “Our town is split in half by the main road. There was a park on the east side, but on the west end, this end, there wasn’t really anything.”
Take a cue from Lancaster’s success 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 a Tiffin 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 of raising 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 benefit it will offer to them—a place to enjoy, a bump in home value, a great view. It’s play time!