Growing a Playground

Growing a Playground

Clifton Town Park's renovation reaches midpoint.

They came with shovels, wheelbarrows and rakes, work gloves on their hands and surrounded by giggling children.

More than a dozen Clifton residents spent a sunny Saturday morning distributing mulch and wood chips across several wooden frames where new playground equipment had been planted earlier in the week.

"The whole community has come together for innovative ways to do this," said Aileen Mitchell, who has served as fund-raising chairwoman for the past two and a half years while raising money for the playground renovations at Clifton Town Park on Chapel Street. "Look around, there are older families and young families out here helping out. It's really transformative to see this place come together."

Three years ago, members of the Clifton Town Council decided it was time to renovate the park, which hadn't been changed since the 1980s, said council member Trish Robertson.

"There was a core group of us that went around to see what kind of playground equipment we wanted, because it had to be fitting for the historical district and everything," she said.

The pieces they found, including a green train structure, a wooden climbing tower and swing set, were made by the Kompan company and "fit perfectly," Robertson said. "They have a great philosophy about how kids play and use lots of natural materials. They only use plastic when it's absolutely necessary," she said.

WORK ON THE PLAYGROUND is only partially completed, however. Now that the new equipment has been installed, and volunteers spent Saturday morning laying down wood chips, phase two of the project is underway.

"We're working to raise money so we can renovate three pieces of equipment that were here for decades," said Robertson, including a wooden truck and a see-saw shaped like a watermelon.

"Some of the old equipment was put in during the 1980s and needed some work," said Bill Hollaway, who has taken over some of the restoration work. "There are people who have lived in the community for the past 25 years who were very attached to the old equipment. We had to bring it back."

The pieces were inspected by the Virginia Municipal League, which provides to insurance to communities, who pointed out what changes had to be made to the pieces, like making sure gaps were less than five inches or greater than nine inches in order to be considered safe for children, Hollaway said.

"When we're all done with that, we'll re-install the pieces," he said, which may be completed as soon as "late summer or early fall."

Also included in the second phase of the playground renovation will be the installation of new picnic tables and landscaping, Robertson said.

"We raised about $60,000 for the first part of the process and we'll need to raise about $40,000 to $50,000 for the second part," she said.

ON SATURDAY, April 1, Noodles and Noggins, a toy store located on Main Street in Clifton behind the Heart in Hand restaurant, is having a fund-raiser for the playground, said Jackie Lambertson, owner of the store.

"We're going to be having an open house where kids can come in and do all sorts of things with a train theme," Lambertson said. "The caboose will be open for kids to explore and we'll have a bunch of train-related crafts."

Mr. Knick-Knack and Mister Don will be performing, she said, and representatives of the company who make the "Thomas the Tank Engine" line of train toys will be there Saturday as well.

Lambertson said the event will include a raffle and food sales to raise money for the second phase of the playground project.

"We raised $7,000 last year during our KidFest and we hope to raise a bit of money with this event too," she said.

The official opening for the new equipment in the park will take place within the next few weeks, Robertson said, because the equipment will need to settle into the concrete footings it was installed in before it's safe for children to play on.