Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Playground Gleams in Clarke House Park

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Playground Gleams in Clarke House Park

Article excerpt

ORANGE PARK -- Clarke House Park on Kingsley Avenue was quiet Monday morning, following six days of hustle-bustle activity created by hundreds of volunteers building a massive playground.

The culmination of nearly two years of planning, fund-raising and construction was dedicated by Project Playground leaders and volunteers at 6 p.m. Sunday -- a 15,000-square-foot adventure land for kids.

The all-wood playground, which is connected by a maze-like series of mulched trails, contains a number of imaginative features, including tunnel slides, a castle complete with towers, a ship, a P-3 U.S. Navy airplane, a tot lot and a covered rest area.

While the construction process was unhampered by wet weather, rain began falling on the crowd just about the time a ribbon was cut and children were allowed to rush into the play area.

But nobody seemed to mind.

"When they cut the ribbon, kids swarmed in there like a stampede, and it started raining for the first time all week," said Hal Chute, Project Playground's tool coordinator. "They all screamed and had a great time."

The precision with which the project was carried out was demonstrated by a schedule that had timed a brief dedication ceremony to be held at 6 p.m.

At 5:45 p.m., a crane was setting the last tower top in place on the castle. Minutes later, after a couple of brief speeches, the moment hundreds of children had been anxiously awaiting arrived.

"It was great," said Beth Williams, who handled publicity for Project Playground and was accompanied by her two sons, ages 6 and 8. "The rain made the slides go fast. My kids loved it."

While organizers had expressed concern about the number of volunteers earlier in the week, Williams said "at least 500 people" arrived at the park to help Friday, and the numbers swelled even higher over the weekend.

The playground was designed and supervised by the Robert Leathers Architectural Group of Ithaca, N. …

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