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KitsapKids park not aging gracefully?

Nanna Larson of Bremerton plays with her grandchildren Michael O’conner, 3, and his brother Nicholas, 6, of Poulsbo. They were cavorting on Monday morning on the tire swing located at the KitsapKids playground near the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Nanna Larson of Bremerton plays with her grandchildren Michael O’conner, 3, and his brother Nicholas, 6, of Poulsbo. They were cavorting on Monday morning on the tire swing located at the KitsapKids playground near the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Opened in June of last year, KitsapKids Playground at the Fairgrounds has suffered from vandalism, constant use, and the elements.

The worst of it is that nearly 50 of the hundreds of decorative tiles ringing the inside perimeter have been pried loose and stolen, or broken. The tiles held names of contributors.

Paulette DeGard, former president of the non-profit foundation that was created to build the $250,000, 14,000-square-foot CK playground, is disappointed it hasn’t been maintained.

“The Parks Department was supposed to take over the ($15,200-per-year) maintenance cost,” she said. DeGard quit her post at the foundation to work as a teacher in Seattle. “That hasn’t been happening. I’m getting involved again to see to it work gets done.”

Cris Gears, director of the Kitsap County’s Parks Department, said his workers check the playground daily for trash.

“We can’t fix something if we don’t know about it,” Gears said. “People in this community seem to go to the press first. We’ve gotten no calls for repairs.”

The playground was built in just six days by nearly 2,000 local volunteers — supplying everything from professional know-how and materials to just plain sweat.

“There are pieces broken (at the playground) that need repair,” said DeGard, “and I haven’t had the time this year to get involved.”

Missing tiles aside, she said the wear-and-tear is a “good news/bad news” indicator.

“The good news is that kids are using it all the time... the bad news is that things wear out and need to be maintained, but aren’t. Apparently the county budget can’t afford it.”

Perusal of the site indicated most things are intact and working — with some exceptions: the beauty bark that acts as carpeting for the playground has settled considerably; mallets for the wooden xylophone have been cut from their cables; other, similar music makers are in similar disrepair; A kid-size picnic table has partially toppled; some activities such as steering wheels for fantasy vehicles could use oiling to minimize rusty squeaks; a floating platform designed to move around, with four chain-supports, only has three; fresh paint on some vulnerable spots would help; and a general sprucing up and cleaning is needed, said organizers.

On the good side, the gazebo and four picnic tables seem in great shape; the complex maze of wood, chain, rubber and plastic slides (the “Castle”) is in good shape. Swings are all intact. Nothing appears unsafe.

Gears added that the pledge tiles and other fundraising devices, such as pledge entryway bricks and pledge wooden slats in the surrounding picket fence, are not part of the maintenance deal worked out with the playground’s creators.

Current KitsapKids foundation president, Judith Rammel, said they didn’t keep track of the exact position of tiles, and have no idea which are missing. She promised, however, that if the folks who donated money for the tiles would come in and let Rammel know, the foundation will replace those particular tiles. There are also more tiles that haven’t been installed, because the foundation is trying to figure out a better way to secure the tiles.

There are no lights at night, she said. Hopefully, down the road, funds for lights will be found, she said. Sheriff’s deputies have been asked to patrol occasionally, she said.

The playground was long in planning and quick in building. KitsapKids is located at Fairgrounds Road and Stampede Boulevard N.W. There are also features such as a sand box, an obstacle course, and jungle gym.

Selling tiles, personalized bricks and personalized “pickets” for the picket fencing are just a few of the ways the foundation raised the money. KitsapKids is the local name and chapter of a national program. Contractor Leathers and Associates travel the country helping to design and build such playgrounds on a fast-track — to save time and money. The company is based in Montreal.

To report damaged equipment at the playground, call county parks at (360) 337-5350.

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