South Row School will cut the ribbon on their new playground on Saturday after rebuilding The school had planned on replacing the playground anyway even before the fire -- and now, thanks to help from the community and local businesses, the playground has re-opened.
Danielle Evans is chairman of the South Row Playground Committee. She answers a few questions about rebuilding the playground below.
Q: Tell us about what the process was like to get the playground replaced. How was it a community effort?
A: I took over running the South Row Playground Committee in April, 2011. We were in the process of researching and interviewing playground companies at the time of the fire. After hiring a company, we worked with our staff to determine the most appropriate playground structure for South Row. Myself, along with the Committee, visited many other area playgrounds and spoke with the representatives involved in their construction. We decided to install a handicap accessible ramp, roller slide, sensory stimulating components such as a marble panel, and features such as a balance beam to provide for parallel play. We also decided to invest in QuaBoing shredded rubber mulch (http://www.quaboing.com) as our main form of surfacing. It is manufactured from rubber show soles, and is a very safe, durable material. We have an additional poured in place rubber surfacing being installed over the summer. The site also includes a stone walkway around the perimeter of the area, and a 40’ x 50’ asphalt play pad. The South Row children will be helping to decide what games will be painted on the pad this summer.
We were also very fortunate to have a wonderful Department of Public Works to assist us at the site. They did extensive work to improve the grading and drainage at the site, assisted in the creation of walkways at the site, and have been assisting with landscaping. They are a very dedicated group, and we are extremely appreciative of their efforts.
On April 14, 2012, we had a mulch spreading day where we installed 61,000lbs. of mulch! We had many volunteers from within our South Row Community and the greater Chelmsford community. Stop and Shop provided both volunteers and food for the event. Stop and Shop has been our major sponsor of financial support for the playground. Additional food was supplied by Hershey’s and Starbucks.
Q: What was your first reaction to the fire at the playground and are you worried at all about arson in the future?
A: My first reaction was shock and frustration that someone (or multiple people) would do this to a playground meant for children. There are many security improvements to the site including raising the site up and locating it closer to the parking lot, improved lighting, increased police surveillance, and a security camera. Most of all, the playground will be used by all the families and children of Chelmsford providing many eyes to watch out for vandalism.
Q: Who contributed financially to replacing the playground?
A: The South Row PTO Playground Committee raised $85,000 this year for the new playground. We had a variety of fundraisers that included the Chelmsford business community, the entire South Row community, and many other Chelmsford residents. Stop and Shop is our main sponsor for the playground. They sold one-third (roughly $11,000) worth of our ChelmsfordOpoly game boards, donated volunteers and food for our April 14th mulch spreading day, they are donating food for our June 2nd Ribbon Cutting Event, and various other in-kind donations. At our Ribbon cutting event Stop and Shop will be presenting the South Row PTO Playground Committee with a $5000.00 grant. The generosity of Stop and Shop, and support of their employees is a major factor in our success.
We are very grateful for the support we have received from all of the Chelmsford residents and businesses. We plan to thank all of them on June 2nd!
Our fundraisers included: ChelmsfordOpoly, Walk-A-Thon, Stop and Shop Grant, Silent Auction, Kidstuff Coupon Books, South Row Pumpkin Fair, South Row Ice Cream Social, Genevieve Gift Wrap(South Row fundraiser), Dining to Donate-Rufina's, Bake Sales/Snack Stands, Coin jars, South Row - Pennies for the Playground, and various smaller gatherings.
Q: What will it be like for you, and everyone else who has worked hard on the project, to finally cut the ribbon on it?
A: It will be very gratifying to present the new playground to all of our supporters, and the Chelmsford community. We take great pride in our school and our new facility. We have a special “surprise” ribbon to cut that will represent all of the South Row students.
The best part for me personally is seeing the children playing on the new playground when I drive by the school during the day- even before we “officially” cut the ribbon.
Q: What do the kids think of the new playground?
A: The South Row students have been very patient and resilient this year. They were thrilled to finally play on their new playground this week. They loved the structure and the new rubber mulch – it was wonderful to watch them during their first recess!