Swanton sliding toward new playground

From the St Albans Messenger, August 17th, 2018

SWANTON VILLAGE — Village board members were swinging after their first peek at a new playground Monday night.

Debbie Winters returned to update the board after proposing renovations and new equipment for the Swanton Elementary School’s playgrounds in April.

Monday, Winters shared a booklet outlining the funding campaign for the renovations, as well as tentative site plans by Cross Consulting, of St. Albans.

Winters argued in April that the playgrounds need renovations for children’s safety, and for practicality’s sake — for example, the amount of concrete on the playground now prohibits children from spending time outside in the winter when it ices over, and the playground’s aging equipment raised concerns during its most recent safety audit.

She stressed the playground’s importance as a community center. For example, “People have birthday parties here in the summer, on weekends,” Winters said.

She also cited the results of a 2017 National Recreation & Park Association survey, in which 85 percent of respondents said proximity to parks and playgrounds is a factor in where they choose to live.

Winters didn’t have to argue very hard. With the former  superintendent of the Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union (FNWSU), Win Goodrich, at her side, village board members promptly offered their support.

Winters told the board Monday that a key component of the renovations is opening up the playground’s connection to the Richard “Dick” Thompson Fit & Healthy Recreation Path, Swanton’s approximately one-mile walking path, and creating an inviting “front door” to the playground.

Winters also said the renovations’ biggest cost is equipment. She said, “We’re not trying to do anything crazy with that site work.”

The Messenger has reprinted preliminary designs for the new playground equipment.

Beyond that equipment, the renovations include landscaping work. Winters discussed the possibility of a natural playground, stumps and hills, as well as better grading, improved walkways and removing much of that troublesome pavement. The only potential concrete work Winters mentioned was a concrete pad for games like four square.

At the initial April presentation, Goodrich asked if village officials might allow the use of village heavy machinery come construction time. Monday night, Village Manager Reg Beliveau Jr. gave an enthusiastic yes.

“We moved a 97,000-pound rubber bladder,” Beliveau said, referring to the village’s newly installed hydro dam. “I think we can move some top soil.”

Winters is one of five on the playground’s capital campaign committee, including Meaghan Conly of the Swanton School Board, Lora McAllister of the FNWSU, and Jason Butler and Justina Jennett, respectively Swanton Elementary’s director of buildings and grounds and its assistant principal.

The campaign’s fundraising goal is $200,000.

Winters broke down that figure in April: $70,000 in donations, $50,000 in public and state grants, $40,000 in private foundation grants, $20,000 in prior school funds and $20,000 in fundraising.

At the same time, Winters said the campaign’s central goal was involving the community. Donor recognition areas near the playground, for example, with bricks carrying individual donors’ names, or the possibility of sponsoring individual pieces of playground equipment.

The campaign has a social media hashtag, #WeRSwanton. Winters said the committee will soon produce t-shirts with the hashtag as a fundraiser.

Winters ran one segment of the capital campaign booklet by the village board: a statement that “100 percent of school board, town selectboard and village trustees support the project.”

She said, “I hope that’s okay to say.”

Board members said it was. Village Clerk Dianne Day even offered a clarification.

“110 percent,” she said.

Donations to the project may be mailed to the Swanton Playground Fund at 100 Robin Hood Drive, Swanton, 05488, or dropped off at the same address.

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    Swanton, VT 05488