BLISSFIELD - Howard Estes lifted his cap from the top of his head and wiped the sweat from his brow.
It was a hot day, nearly 90 degrees, but the heat and the humidity couldn't keep the 75-year-old Blissfield man away from the playground project that unfolded before him.
Mr. Estes was one of more than 40 volunteers who came out yesterday to help erect bright purple and yellow playground equipment in Clara Bachmayer Memorial Park. After nearly a year of research and fund-raising, the Blissfield Playground Committee saw the first phase of the project come together.
“It amazes me. I haven't seen a park like this,” said Mr. Estes, whose grandchildren are likely too old for the equipment. “[This park] was just the bare minimum of old equipment. Now it's beautiful.”
The transformation was obvious. Where years ago a garbage dump stood, brightly colored poles stuck out of the loose sand and sturdy plastic slides spiraled to the ground. Today, the group plans to cement the pieces in place and then fill the recreation area in with pea gravel and wood chips. And this is just the first park to be tackled. Future playground projects are slated at Ellis Park, across the river from the Clara Bachmayer park, and then Bachmayer Little League fields. And perhaps in the future, a skate park may develop.
Committee chairwoman Billie Patton said the total project cost is about $180,000, of which the committee has acquired about $61,000. Engraved bricks to build a pathway to the playground were part of the fund-raising project and will hopefully be in by next month, she said. All the hard work, she added, has been worth it. It was on a preschool field trip to the park a few years back that Mrs. Patton realized that Blissfield's parks lacked safe places to play. “They had baby swings, but they were so rusty that you wouldn't dare put your child in them,” she said. “Everything is so nice in this village, except the playgrounds are the pits.”
So Mrs. Patton complained to village officials. But with a tight budget and mandated sewer projects to pay for, playground equipment was a low priority. Then Mrs. Patton met other community members with similar aspirations.
Together, the committee raised money, took trips to other playgrounds, and even enlisted the help of Recreation Creations of Hillsdale to get the equipment at a reduced price.
“Knowing what we have to face with the regular budget items, this wouldn't have happened,” said Councilman Jae Guetschow, who braved the heat yesterday to help with the project. “We're kind of proud of our park system, and this just adds to it.”
Madison Tracy, 7, and her sister, Emma, 6, lounged in the grass and watched their parents and the other volunteers as they were digging holes, hammering pieces together, and measuring out where each item goes. The girls said they live near the park, but they really don't visit it very often. “I like the swings,” Emma said simply. “Here, they're going to have new swings.”