Burton Community Park fundraising continues to year’s end

Total raised so far is $181,000

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published October 16, 2013

 Burton Elementary School fifth-grader Henry Ghawi, 10, pushes his friends Zachary Aronson-Paxton, left, 10, and Jack Hoffman, 10, on a tire swing during recess Oct. 10 at the school. Fundraising efforts are going on through the end of the year to replace the almost 20-year-old play structure at the Burton Community Park with a new model.

Burton Elementary School fifth-grader Henry Ghawi, 10, pushes his friends Zachary Aronson-Paxton, left, 10, and Jack Hoffman, 10, on a tire swing during recess Oct. 10 at the school. Fundraising efforts are going on through the end of the year to replace the almost 20-year-old play structure at the Burton Community Park with a new model.

Photo by Sean Work

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — A project that began in the summer of 2012 is nearing an end as fundraising efforts for the Burton Community Park improvement project will end Dec. 31 with a goal to raise $440,000.

Parents, school officials and community members started raising money to update the playground at the park, which also serves as the playground for Burton Elementary School, in May 2012, raising $35,000 in six weeks. In January, the Huntington Woods Men’s Club donated $65,000 to the project. As of Monday, the total raised stood at about $181,000.

Organizers hope to use the funds raised to replace the current play structure.

The current structure was built in 1994 and is made mostly of wood. Project Chairperson Susan Witus said the wood structure was intended to last 20 years, and neighboring communities with similar wooden structures have since updated them.

“What is happening, and you hear this coming from all-weather parks, the structure is (deteriorating),” Witus said. “We have a really good city, and they are making sure it is safe; however, when certain elements break, like swings or other cool things, those have been taken down and not replaced because it is not the kind of playground that can be repaired.”

Because of the way the structure is designed, and because of it being made of wood, animals have made the structure their home in recent years. Splinters have also become a concern.

“We take out three to five splinters a day, and they are big ones, and kids are always coming in with splinters,” Burton Principal Maribeth Krehbiel said. “We have elements of the playground that no longer work, and we can’t replace them because then everything on the playground would have to come up to code, and that would require tearing the park down and redoing it.

“Right now, we don’t have full use of the playground.”

Witus said the committee looked at several replacement options for the play structure and chose the one that included the most important things, according to a survey done with students, teachers and community members. The $440,000 structure would last roughly 50 years.

However, if the total amount isn’t raised by Dec. 31, the committee will select a different structure or take off some elements to spend only what was raised. Witus said construction is set to begin in June 2014, and the committee needs time to make the final decision and put the project up for bid.

During the school year, the park is used by the students from 8:05 a.m.-3:20 p.m., and in the summer or after school, the park is used by a variety of groups, camps and families.

Krehbiel said Burton has quite a few autistic students, so the new structure will be optimized for children on the autism spectrum, as well as being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Having that time for recess and a good playground is extremely important, especially with our students with autism, because that is the time where we work on socialization skills and that relationship-building back and forth,” Krehbiel said. “With all children, it is a time to learn negotiating and problem-solving skills, and our physical education teacher used the playground to make sure students are physically fit and active.”

Witus said surveys showed swings were one of the most requested items to have on the new playground, as well as a climbing wall and a half-sphere jungle gym. Kids also responded that they wanted more room to run, so the playground will be opened up a little more to include room to climb and run.

But some elements of the current playground will remain after the wooden play structure is torn down — specifically, the concrete crawling barrels.

“A lot of alumni of Burton, and I am one — there are four concrete barrels that have been there forever and people want the barrels to stay,” Witus said. “We all remember when we were big enough to climb on top and many people had their first kiss in there, so we are excited about everything new, but the barrels are a right of passage for the kids.”

The park improvement committee is still seeking individuals or businesses to donate money or become sponsors of the park. Donors who contribute $500 or more will receive permanent recognition on the park donor wall.

There is also a fundraising campaign, named “Park for Sale,” where individuals or teams can fundraise for a particular park element, and the top three fundraisers win cash prizes.

“We have very strong parental and community support, and we are looking for different businesses and community people in the city to help in our final push for the fundraising,” Krehbiel said. “The city has been very supportive to work with, and we are about halfway to our goal. It has been a long process, but we think our children deserve a great place to play.”

For more information on the Burton Community Park project, or the fundraising campaign, visit www.burtonpark.wordpress.com.

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