Kid-inspired playground to be built at Twin Lakes

Plans will be drawn up from children's suggestions and Juneau volunteers will build it

Posted: Sunday, January 01, 2006

A new playground at Twin Lakes will be designed for children - by children.

A committee of Juneau parents has formed to build the new community playground with the help of New York-based company Leathers & Associates. Project Playground is looking to raise $200,000 to create a centrally located Juneau-themed park where kids and parents can gather to play and relax.

"We really don't have a big destination park that draws people in for hours," committee member James King said.

A representative of Leathers & Associates will come to Juneau at the end of the month to visit with schoolchildren to incorporate their ideas into the playground design. After meeting with children from six local schools on Jan. 26, the representative will create the design on the spot, which will be unveiled at 6:30 p.m. that evening at Harborview Elementary School.

"The kids are really involved in this process," committee member Dawn Welch said. "It's not just a committee of adults that are getting together to put together a playground."

After the design and fundraising are complete, community volunteers will build the playground in five days under the guidance of a Leathers representative. Depending on the fundraising timetable, the construction will begin this fall or spring on 25,000 square feet of land the city has set aside for the project at Twin Lakes.

"What we're really looking to do is build a playground that is far and above any other playground that is available in Juneau," committee member Tom Cosgrove said.

Leathers & Associates has built hundreds of playgrounds across the country, including play areas in Palmer and Haines, using the same process. Elaborate designs created by children's ideas have translated into large play structures that resemble everything from castles to frontier fortresses.

Welch, a mother of two toddlers, said they are hoping to incorporate Juneau and Alaska themes into the playground - possibly a fish ladder or boats.

"It's going to be our park, a community park, so I think we should stick with Juneau (as the theme)," she said. "We've discussed so many great ideas that it will be exciting to see what gets incorporated into the design."

One thing they intend to include in the design is plenty of covered areas to entice children to get outdoors when the weather may be unpleasant.

"We want to be able to be outside," Welch said. "We want to play when it's raining and snowing so we're trying to keep that in mind when we're in the process of doing a park."

Cosgrove, a father of two, said the committee is motivated because the parents see a need for a centrally located playground that can draw people from all over the borough.

"A playground is more than just a couple of sets of swings and a slide," he said. "It's a place where toddlers can run free and be safe. It's a place that can challenge imagination and physical abilities."

The biggest hurdle will be the fundraising, King said. Project Playground is selling engraved fence pickets that will border parts of the structure to keep the children at a safe distance from the water. Pickets are $40 for individuals or $100 for businesses and are available from Southeast Alaska Independent Living, the committee's nonprofit host.

"We very much want this to be a community thing and we are open to all sorts of ideas and things," King said. "We're hoping that people will participate."



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