Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A playground for the next generation

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Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash and Don Fox Park Advisory Team Chairman David Hale met at Don Fox Park last week to discussion updating one of the city's most iconic landmarks - the community playground.

"We just want people to know we are aware the park needs some work. It's in pretty good shape, but there are some things that have been neglected," Ash said. "The big thing is - we are going to take care of this."

The Lebanon Community Playground was built by volunteers in 1995 in cooperation with city and county resources. The original project was spearheaded by attorney Mark Lee, who with the help of Susan Lee, Sue Vanatta and a core committee, raised $185,000 to fund the playground.

Lee pointed out in an interview last year that the playground had fallen into disrepair in recent years. He said that in the fall of 2010, funds were down to $36,000. They hired the original architect out of New York to help revive it.

"The playground was reopened and rededicated. It looked brand new all over again," Lee had told The Wilson Post.

However, the time has come for another "revamping" of sorts.

The Lebanon City Council approved up to $500,000 for park renovations and additions. Ash also assembled a new committee, including original committee members Hale, Lee and Vanatta, to develop a master plan.

"The three of us have a lot of sentimental attachment to this because 22 years ago we were here every day," Hale said. "Mark Lee and I were the first two people here every morning and the last to leave in the afternoon."

Ash said the current idea is to keep the front fortress design, which has become a landmark, and tear down the rest of it to replace it with new equipment and materials.

"This type of playground is not what this generation of children is interested as much. There are also limitations verses a modern plastic and steel structure. One of the things I've been told is parents want a playground that is more open so that if they are here with more than one child they can better see where their children are," Hale explained. "Twenty-two years ago that wasn't nearly as big of a deal. Twenty-two years ago we made an effort to make spaces in the playground where kids could go and hide."

Other input from the community is creating places where children can play with special needs children.

"We have a special needs playground, but there needs to be a way those two children can play in the same vicinity," Hale added.

The committee decided to work with the park team to make the playground as safe and usable as possible this summer - without shutting it down for construction.

Construction is anticipated to begin in the early fall.

"We didn't want to close the playground during summer vacation. As you can see we have a big crowd here today," Hale said. "We want to be in a situation when summer break is over how to move forward and start demolition and reconstruction."

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