Volunteer Travis McNair fills around a concrete form at the new Soda Creek Elementary School playground Monday morning. Volunteers helped build the new playground, and a new one at Strawberry Park Elementary School last weekend. However, there still were a few details left on Monday and, thankfully, a few volunteers willing to come out and help.

Photo by John F. Russell

Volunteer Travis McNair fills around a concrete form at the new Soda Creek Elementary School playground Monday morning. Volunteers helped build the new playground, and a new one at Strawberry Park Elementary School last weekend. However, there still were a few details left on Monday and, thankfully, a few volunteers willing to come out and help.

A community built on will

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The twirling, spinning, rocking, sliding and climbing pieces all are in place. Buoyed by the work of hundreds of volunteers, the two playground structures at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools are in place and ready for the next phase in their preparation for children.

Throughout the course of five days, between 300 and 400 volunteers installed 270 posts of play equipment in two universal play structures designed to be accessible for wheelchairs and full of activities for children of all abilities.

Although all the work planned for the community build days was finished - and ahead of schedule at Soda Creek - the playground will not be available to children until the groundwork is finished and a rubberized surface installed. Organizers hope to hold a dedication ceremony in mid- or late September

Ben Northcutt, playground committee co-chairman for the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, said the build was a resounding success not only because there were no major problems along the way - re-setting a piece of equipment was the largest obstacle - but because the community was willing and able to do everything that was required.

"We had the right people when we needed them," he said. "I had confidence all along we would do it, I just didn't know how."

Many local companies also contributed to the effort either through allowing employees to take time off work or by donating food for the workers. Groups ranging from SmartWool to Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue showed up in droves, bringing about 30 people each day to each site.

The equipment is impressive not only because it is handicap accessible but also because of its creativity. There are chimes, drums and a speaking tube for noise making, a PlayWeb that looks like a giant spider's web, stepping stones and bouncing seats. There are swings, teeter-totters, rock climbing walls, and soon there will be a large boulder at the Strawberry Park site for kids to climb on.

Shelly St. Pierre, one of the organizers of the fundraising efforts leading to the community build, said her son, Remy, was awestruck when she took him to the playground for the first time to see the equipment. Remy is in a wheelchair, and St. Pierre said the family had never been to a universal playground.

As she showed him the equipment and pointed out where he would be able to wheel his way all the way to the highest point in the playground, she said he was amazed.

"The look on his face and the way his face lit up made it to where all the effort the community put in was worth it," she said.

Work continues

The work to prepare the ground underneath the playgrounds will continue this week, said Steamboat Springs School District Facilities Director Rick Denney. He will coordinate a smaller team of volunteers to install drainage pipes, backfill, gravel, insulating Styrofoam and the pipes for a snowmelt system before the final topping of rubber is poured.

Denney said he will need about 10 volunteers a day and will work on only one site at a time. To volunteer, call Denney at 871-3194 or show up at one of the work sites.

Workers from Children's Playstructures & Recreation, the company that makes the equipment, will be on site putting the finishing touches on the playgrounds during the next three weeks.

Dylan Nerim, one of the installers and crew leaders from the company, said he was impressed by the community support in Steamboat.

"Personally this is the best (community build) I've been to," he said. "Any kind of service we've needed, they had it right away. I give it an A-plus."

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