Donations Sought for Baileyville Playground

Making the first business-based donation to the newly-begun campaign to rehabilitate Woodland Elementary School’s playground is the Nook and Cranny, which contributed $500. From left to right: WES Principal Mandy Belanger, Steve Clark, Sarah Norton, Emily Clark, and Lilyanne Phillips. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

The Woodland Elementary School playground is in need of improvements, and funds are now being sought from the extended community to develop a playground that is both safe and enjoyable for area families. Principal Mandy Belanger has determined that $60,000 will accomplish the goal – a goal that the Nook and Cranny recently became the first business to contribute to with a $500 donation.

The aging WES playground is the largest in the Baileyville area. The last playground equipment was put in 25 years ago; the majority of the equipment is in a state of deterioration as a result of sun exposure and swelling and shrinking caused by fluctuating temperatures. “Piece by piece, we’re kind of losing it, and it’s time to start replacing it,” Belanger said.

From her perspective as a school administrator, Belanger understands the value of having quality equipment that children are inspired to play with. She explained that an increasing amount of research indicates that children that engage in unstructured play have better cognitive development, classroom behavior and social skills.

An improved playground wouldn’t just benefit the students of WES. The playground is fenced in, but it is never locked, enabling everyone to use it as a gathering place. “It’s really a place for the community to come, too,” Belanger said. “Families use it all the time on the weekends.”

Belanger has outlined a list of equipment that would transform the WES playground into an inviting and creative space. It includes several pieces of elaborate SportsPlay equipment: Katherine, Lewis & Clark, Sand Digger and a Two Panel Rope Aztec Climber, along with basketball hoops, a sandbox, and the Ultra Play picnic table from Lowe’s. The $60,000 goal also includes materials needed for the playground’s overhaul to take place, including peastone, cement and landscaping timbers. One of Belanger’s primary goals is to make the playground ADA accessible to enable all children to use it.

While the initial funds to purchase the equipment are being sought from the community, Belanger said that the school district has allotted funds to the upkeep of the playground going forward. Per Belanger, funds were not previously available for that purpose as the district was focused more on budgeting for academics – but with evidence revealing that play and academics go hand in hand, the district has expanded its maintenance funding.

Steve Clark of the Nook and Cranny needed little encouragement to make the donation to a cause that he feels is important for the community. “It’s for the kids,” Clark said. “We like to give back if we can. Nook and Cranny is there for those who care.”

There is a donation jar at the Nook and Cranny for those who would like to drop in and contribute, while those who’d like to enjoy a meal and make a donation simultaneously can do so on Wednesday evenings – which Clark explains is Date Night. Every entrée sold on Date Night will generate $1 toward the playground.