On Friday morning, a group of volunteers participated in the first stages of a community build project to renovate the oldest park in Edmonds, City Park. The goal of the weekend-long project is to install new playground equipment; next year a water-play feature spray pad will be added.
The previous playground equipment, which was about 20 years old, had deteriorated to the point that it had “started to lose its play value,” said Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite, who is overseeing the work. The park’s master plan including a spray pad had been on the city’s Capital Improvement Program since 1992, so $500,000 had already been set aside to replace the equipment when the plans went into action. The city used that money to apply for a matching state grant to help support the “City Park Play and Spray Area Revitalization.” After the state granted a matching $500,000, the city still needed to raise additional funds to cover the $1.35 million dollar project. The complete funding was secured in 2013, after the Hazel Miller Foundation granted $270,000 and Snohomish County donated $80,000 to the project.
“It was a part of our original grant to the state that we would do a community build, and this community has never done a community build for a playground,” Hite said. “In my parks experience, I’ve done a few community builds and I just find they tend to strengthen the community. It’s a fun way to do it. It also saves about $20,000 in the budget.
“So we can pay somebody $20,000 to come in and build it, or we can rely on volunteers,” Hite said, adding that the city is fortunate to have community members “that like to roll up their sleeves and actually do some work.”
A large majority of the City Park volunteers came from the Shoreline Stake of Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, which includes seven wards in the area. Richard Marin, a past Edmonds City Councilmember and the leader of the stake’s annual “Day of Service” committee, first heard about the community build when the church volunteered to paint the railings in City Park last September. (See our story here on that volunteer work.) “As part of learning about that [project] and setting it up, [Parks Manager] Rich Lindsay told me that there was going to be a community build of this equipment sometime in the spring… My mind just perked up, saying, ‘Yeah, we want to be a part of that,’” Marin explained.
About 88 church members signed up to help with the community build, which was an extension of the church’s “Day of Service” last September. Marin himself showed up a day early on his own to help the three hired construction workers put in the playground for the older children. “It’s just plain fun to work together doing something worthwhile… it’s just gratifying to give back,” Marin said.
Among the church volunteers were two missionaries from Layton, Utah and Portland, Ore., respectively. Even as new members of the Edmonds community, the two women found time in their day to help out. “This is a park. I mean it’s for the kids… The more parks we have, I think the better,” said one of the missionaries, Sister Madsen, of her involvement in the project.
Added the other missionary, Sister Franzen: “And plus, I think it’s a great opportunity to get involved with the community and help people see it’s still important to make the community nicer. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other things and it’s fun to see a kid smile because there’s a new shiny park to play on.”
However, for Dana Nielsen, the choice to volunteer with the church was a little more personal. “My family has been in Edmonds for 150 years or more and I’m [recently] returning back… I remember [this park] before it had paving,” Nielsen recalled. She also confirmed the park looked “pretty much” the same as when she had been a child, agreeing that it had needed a change.
“Parks, in general, add to quality of life for people,” Hite noted. “You have incredible opportunities to provide for kids to be active and explore and move their bodies. It’s all important to me. That’s why I’m in the parks field.”
The community build will continue Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the park, located at 600 3rd Ave. S., for any interested volunteers, and the playground should be finished and open for use in two weeks.
— Story and photos by Caitlin Plummer