If you could design your very own home and the sky was the limit, what would it include? Indoor pool? Furnished and catalogued library? Replica of a Lower East Side dive bar? Imagine asking kids that same question on a topic extremely important to them: their play space. The Junior League of Kingston did just that, asking 1,000 students in six Kingston schools the very same question regarding a dream playground: “What would you guys want?” This question is the very one that kids have been waiting to be asked since they learned their first word. But the answers didn’t require words, just drawings.
The Junior League of Kingston first built the Forsyth Park playground about 20 years ago, raising an unprecedented (for them) $40,000 to cover the costs. Today, its structures and materials are aging and the group is faced with either repairing the playground and extending its life for another five years or replacing it. So the Junior League has undertaken the task of raising $150,000 cover the materials, such as concrete and footings and structures, for a brand-new Kinderland. The playground construction costs will be 100 percent covered by community volunteers.
The timing is ideal for an improvement since Forsyth Park is in the city’s crosshairs for a battery of capital improvements and upgrades, including the tennis courts, ball field, bathrooms and more. The family of former county judge James C. Forsyth donated Forsyth Park’s 18.55 acres of limestone bedrock layers, shady oak and pine trees. The tennis courts, wading pool, ball field, pavilion and Forsyth Park Zoo have been in place since 1936.
Leathers & Associates Community Built Playgrounds has been contracted to design and work with the Junior League on the project. The original structure will be replaced by a new one comprised of long-wearing materials projected to last 30 years. Leathers & Associates were responsible for building the first playground, and according to Junior League Playground project chair, Beth Hanigan, the company’s price was competitive and the group was impressed with their work as well. Hanigan said this project has special meaning to her having watched her father build the original when Hanigan was 11.
Miller Middle School special education teacher Kristy Nissen said this project has meaning for both herself and Hanigan, since both were raised in the Kingston-area with Junior League member moms, and dads willing to help in the build. The girls also both played on the equipment themselves. Nissen is hopeful to see the playground well-used and keeping kids healthy, active and outdoors as well as offering a venue for other schools within the district. “I have had many conversations with some of my own students and friends with children about Kinderland,” said Nissen. “Overall, everyone is excited. My students were thrilled when I showed them the playground design and they keep asking for more information about the playground. Colleagues and other members of the community also seem excited and are already volunteering to sign up.”
One function of the Junior League is to provide training for women who otherwise wouldn’t have educational opportunities. Grant-writing is one of those trainings, and so the organization now is now offering that training to seek out the appropriate funding grants.
Leathers & Associates reviewed the many student renderings submitted to them and drew up plans to Kinderland II to reflect those wishes. They include a bouncy bridge, monster truck, picnic areas, frog-stepping lily pads, a secret tunnel, wavy bars, fire pole, rock wall, pirate boat, “historic Hudson” activity wall, rope-climbing, sand-digging and more.
Clare Cook, 9, a third-grade student at Edson, had a few ideas for the playground, all of which seemed to have a theme. “[I want] to have a bunch of rock walls and swirly slides,” said Clare. “And I would want to have a slide that goes underground — rainbow-colored. I would want swings and it could look like a pirate ship and I would want it to have twisty monkey bars.” Clare’s number one favorite playground activity? Slides. Big sister Rachel had something along those lines in mind: “Waterslide.”
For more information on the Junior League of Kingston, please visit www.juniorleaguekingston.org. Those interested in donating to the Kingston Kinderland II project or would like to volunteer, e-mail Beth Hanigan, project chair, at email@example.com.