Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Blast Off!

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Blast Off!

Article excerpt

VOLUNTEERS LAUNCH PLAY PLANET INTO ORBIT

Residents in Westland, Mich., understand the power of play. So when it came time to build a new playground in Tartan Park, it was no surprise that local volunteers rolled up their sleeves to make it happen. The result is Play Planet, what may- at 25,000 square feet - be the largest project of its kind constructed by volunteers.

Hundreds of people, including volunteers and their children, turned out for the Nov. 3 grand opening. "Our daughter Alex's eyes bugged out when she saw it for the first time. She wanted to play rather than go to school," says Rick Atkinson, who, with partner Steph Fields pitched in to put Play Planet together. But kids aren't the only ones excited about exploring the red-and-blue world of chutes, slides, rockets, ramps, portals, and other space-themed apparatus. More than 300 volunteers arrived bright and early to tackle the four-day project, organized by the city of Westland, Sinclair Recreation, and GameTime.

The project began when the Downtown Development Authority of Westland had the vision to build a destination playground to encourage residents to go downtown to shop, eat, and even play. They set aside some funding and gave the go ahead to Bob Kosowski, the city's director of parks and recreation. One of Kosowski's first steps was to contact Sinclair Recreation in Holland, Mich., to determine how to incorporate a space theme in the area that would become Play Planet, a fitting idea since the playground would be just down the road from John Glenn High School, named in honor of the first American to orbit the Earth. Sinclair Recreation responded with a GameTime design that also addressed the city's desire for a play area that accommodates children of all abilities.

Once plans for a huge new playground got around Westland, the spirit of community volunteerism spread like a comet's tail. Local businesses and restaurants helped raise money for additional funding and donated food and refreshments for the construction teams. Restaurants also participated in "Eat for the Planet," donating up to 20 percent of their receipts to the Play Planet project. And, following an energetic recruiting effort, residents signed up to offer their sweat-equity for a project scheduled to be completed in a daunting four days.

When volunteers arrived the first day, they found that the supervising crew of professional installers had sorted thousands of parts and components into easily accessible areas, an effort that reduced the time it took to get to the materials. …

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