$250,000 playground project includes castle, train

10/13/2012
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Volunteers Steve Roth, left, and Brock Cahill help build Imagination Kingdom, a $250,000 playground on the south side of Reighard Park in Wauseon.
Volunteers Steve Roth, left, and Brock Cahill help build Imagination Kingdom, a $250,000 playground on the south side of Reighard Park in Wauseon.

WAUSEON — Gabriella Bowers and her mother were spreading mulch at the new, over-the-top fun playground taking shape at Reighard Park Friday afternoon.

Volunteer Kevin Smith helps build Imagination Kingdom. The work will be done, and the park opened, on Sunday.
Volunteer Kevin Smith helps build Imagination Kingdom. The work will be done, and the park opened, on Sunday.

“I’m really excited!” the 10-year-old said after her third day of working at the construction site. The two-story castle that anchors the aptly named Imagination Kingdom is her favorite part of the elaborate playland.

Volunteers Patty Boger, left, and Kay Young help build Imagination Kingdom.
Volunteers Patty Boger, left, and Kay Young help build Imagination Kingdom.

“She said, ‘Mom. I don’t think I’ll ever be bored here,’” said Chris Bowers, who home-schools Gabriella.

The community build, which is fully staffed by volunteers, started Wednesday and continues from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. If it’s finished on time, the playground will open promptly at 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We need help desperately,” volunteer coordinator Susan Mack said. “We need 100 people here right now. We have like 20.”

Still, the volunteers who were there, 10-year-olds, Wauseon High School students, and senior citizens, were keeping busy. Some were painting. Some were hauling mulch and gravel. Others were cutting pieces of structural plastic to build the components of the $250,000 playground.

“We were told this was the first 100 percent plastic playground in the state of Ohio,” coordinator Gloria Gunn said. “It was more money, but we felt it was worth it because we don’t want to put a burden on the city to come through and stain and seal it every two years, and the children won’t get splinters.”

All of the money was raised over the last year by a committee led by Ms. Gunn and Bonnie Grisier, who solicited area businesses, organizations, and individuals. They also are selling engraved pavers and fence pickets to be installed at the site.

In addition to the castle, there is a John Deere green combine, a multicolored train, a teepee, and a mini village.

“It reflects our community,” Ms. Gunn said. “It’s really a kid’s dream. We went to the school and asked what the kids wanted, and they pretty much got everything they wanted except a bungee cord.”

While the castle looks cool, the fun part is finding all the ways to get in and out of it: a suspension bridge, a circular slide, a fire pole, a rope climb, and more.

“It’s all handicapped-accessible,” Ms. Grisier said. “Our board of [developmental disabilities] is so excited that they can bring their students here and be a part of it.”

There are nice features for parents, too, including plenty of shade trees around the perimeter where they can relax while their children explore.

Barry Segal, construction consultant with Leathers and Associates of Ithaca, N.Y., which designed the playground, said it’s built to basically last forever.

“It’s the easiest place I ever brought my child,” Mr. Segal said. “It’s a destination. It’s not a place you just go for a few minutes.”

Jeff Waack, 60, said he took a few days off from his painting and wallpapering business to work on the playground. He has six grandchildren.

“They’ll have a lot of fun here,” he said, adding that he planned to volunteer again today and Sunday. “You bet. I’ll be here till the end.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.