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A new playground for Pagosa’s children

One Pagosa Springs woman is taking it upon herself to spearhead a push to provide area children with a “premier” playground that would also accommodate disabled children — something she says the community currently lacks.

In February, Dawn Robel began design work and the task of finding the funds to install a playground in Yamaguchi Park (located on South 5th Street near the high school), that would be accessible for all children.

“There’s nothing that’s toddler friendly and nothing that’s accessible, so we’re meeting two needs that haven’t been met,” Robel said.

Robel is working as an individual on the project through what she calls the Yamaguchi Park Playground Initiative, with the help of a fiscal sponsor, Community Connections. Community Connections is a 501(c)3 that aims to help disabled people of all ages get services. The nonprofit, based out of Durango, serves the southwest portion of the state.

As fiscal sponsor, Community Connections fields incoming donations, gives tax-deductible receipts and disperses funds to the suppliers.

The push to begin the project came from Robel’s husband who, after seeing a call for requests for projects to come before the PROST taskforce for county 1A parks and recreation funding, urged her to begin looking into the possibility.

While Robel is thankful for the playgrounds that exist in the community, she noted there could be more of them, and more elements to the playgrounds, which means more fun for children.

Robel began talking to town officials about locating the playground in Yamaguchi Park, where an area was designated for a playground, and the project took off.

Robel said town parks and recreation staff and the parks and recreation commission were open to the playground’s location in Yamaguchi due to the park’s accessibility (with sidewalks and handicap access to the playground area, versus Town Park’s gravel parking lot and lack of sidewalk next to the playground), and because the playground would help to lessen the traffic at the Town Park playground by adding another alternative.

In the process of determining the location and design, and collecting funds, Robel has gained letters of support from the parks and recreation commission, the Pagosa Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as some individuals involved with area schools.

The town parks and recreation commission also agreed, through writing a letter of support, to take ownership and maintenance of the playground upon its completion.

Town Parks and Recreation Director Tom Carosello said if the funds were available on their end, the town would be exploring the possibility of a Yamaguchi playground, but said he is happy the project is moving forward as the first ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)-compliant playground in town. The rest of Yamaguchi is ADA-compliant.

“We admire her efforts and are fortunate to have the county have these funds available,” Carosello said.

With an estimated project cost of $37,099, Robel’s original goal was to collect 25 percent of the cost in donations before asking PROST for the remaining amount.

Robel said the community has been generous with time, money and resources, making the project a rewarding experience and, thus far, she has already exceeded the 25 percent goal in donations, with $6,000 in monetary donations and $3,316 in in-kind donations received.

Among the donations, Cameron Parker donated his services as a landscape designer, Robel said, and has helped to field many questions concerning playground design, something with which she has no prior experience.

Robel went before PROST Monday evening to request between $27,000 and $28,000 to fund the remaining portion, but reported that she will continue collecting donations to help persuade PROST to recommend that the county fund the playground, and that the commissioners approve the recommendation.

Noting the town has the space and the county has the money (through 1A funds designated for parks and recreation), Robel said all that was needed was someone to step in and bring the aspects together.

In the proposed plan, the playground will occupy a 3,280-square-foot elliptical-shaped area in the park.

For safety and accessibility, the ground throughout the playground area will be covered with rubber mulch, as well as areas of rubber tiles that make wheelchair and other access easier, Robel said. The mulch costs about $12,000.

As for equipment, Robel put together a focus group that consisted of mothers in the community, and consulted with an occupational therapist, to determined what they desired and thought would benefit the community.

Robel’s proposed plan for the playground includes:

• Swings, including belt swings, toddler bucket swings and a swing that would serve disabled children as well as infants.

• A climbing wall that reaches from the ground to one of the structure’s seven-foot decks to accommodate children ages 5-12.

• A baby rock crawler, which is a climbing wall with handles and a less-severe slope.

• Four slides, including a double slide, which Robel noted is good for children to race on. The other slides are a wavy slide and a spiral tube slide.

•?A toy fire department truck.

• A large wooden xylophone that can be used by up to six children at one time and would be located under a structure.

• A spinning tea cup.

•?A race car spring rider, as well as a teeter spring rider (which lessens the impact when one child gets off as compared to a traditional teeter-totter).

While much of the equipment will be accessible, a specific area of the main structure is slated to be even more so. The area will have a surrounding base of rubber tiles leading from the sidewalk and will include steps of a lessened grade to a slide that will lead back to the rubber tiles at its base.

“It’s a neat thing and it’s been needed for a long time,” Robel said.

If the project receives the rest of the needed funds, Robel hopes to order the equipment in early May and begin installation in June.

“I’m really excited about this project and I’m really looking forward to getting it built,” Robel said.

It was unclear by press time Wednesday whether or not PROST would recommend that the county fund the remainder of the project. Should PROST choose to recommend funding the project, the recommendation would likely go before the BoCC at their May 4 regular meeting.

To contribute or help in any capacity, contact Robel at 731-3068 or dmrobel@hotmail.com.

randi@pagosasun.com