Group seeks to build new playground in Sitka

Vanessa Brown, 5, plays on a swing at Baranof Elementary School in Sitka

Vanessa Brown, 5, plays on a swing at Baranof Elementary School in Sitka

A group will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, at Harrigan Centennial Hall to discuss building a much-needed  Sitka Community Playground.

Alice Marcus, who heads the group Sitka Outdoor Kids, will chair the meeting. She said, “Sitka Community Playground will be a unique Sitka landmark dreamed up by our children, designed by a professional team, and built by all of us.” Wednesday’s informational meeting is being held to explain how this process will work, show photos of other community-built playgrounds in Alaska and answer any questions that may come up.

Aside from the playgrounds at Sitka schools, there are three city-owned playgrounds near Sheldon Jackson/Crescent Harbor and near the track at Moller Field. All of these playgrounds are outdated and none of them meet ADA (American Disability Act) requirements. Also, during weekdays this the summer the playground at Baranof Elementary School is closed to the public because it is being used by the Ventures Program.

“Providing a new playground will get more children outside playing, being active and having fun,” Alice said. “This sends a message to our children that their physical well-being is important to us and we value them as members of our community. Having a new, updated playground is attractive to potential employees with young families. It shows them that we are a progressive community and that we value our youth as integral members.”

Details of the project still need to be worked out, but Alice said they hope the city can provide the land and the upkeep. She said the group will hold community fundraisers, apply for grants and tap other funding sources to cover the construction costs of the playground and long-term repair costs. She envisions an ADA-compliant playground of 7,500 to 9,500 square feet that will have a special section for tots, with another section for kids ages 5-12. She hopes the playground will be completed by May 2013.

A couple of sources for playground information include the KaBoom! program and Planet Earth Playscapes (aka, Earth Play). KaBoom! sponsors the Playful City USA program, and Juneau currently is the only Alaska community listed as a Playful City USA community. One of the principal designers with Planet Earth Playscapes is former Alaskan Leon Smith, who spoke this spring about building nature-based playgrounds at the Association for the Education of Young Children-Southeast Alaska (AEYC-SEA) conference in Juneau.

For more information about Sitka Outdoor Kids or the Sitka Community Playground project, contact Alice at 738-5089 or by e-mail at aliceinayurt@gmail.com.

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