Plans for a community playground in Kelley Park in Ballston Spa are moving along faster than you can say swing set.
It seems only logical that a local, soon-to-be-built playground designed by children should be named by children. The naming contest, now under way, is for the playground being developed as a grassroots effort of Friends and Neighbors of Ballston Spa (FANS). The group of volunteers has been toiling for about three years to build a playground and family recreation area at Kelley Park, located in Ballston Spa adjacent to the municipal swimming pool.
Kelley Park now houses a small skateboard area, a pavilion with restrooms, a dog run, and a play structure with swings and a slide that is primarily used by small children. With a focus on inclusion, organizers are making the play equipment safe for people of all ages and abilities. The playground will include wheelchair swings, ground level activities and other accessible elements to encourage safe playtime for everyone.
`Our group values accessibility and parallel play situations in order to promote tolerance and ‘play for all,’` said Angela McFarland, media coordinator for FANS. `We’ll go beyond the minimum ADA requirements to do so. The nearest known wheelchair/therapeutic swing is in Glens Falls, 25 miles away.`
Last fall, the village of Ballston Spa approved allocating some of the land for a public playground, and fundraising and promotional efforts sped up.
`The momentum is building, and we’re very energized at this point,` said McFarland.
FANS is a group focused on creativity, whether that means funding or finding ways to cut costs. Community groups, parents, home and business owners have come forward to offer everything from building materials to manpower.
The helping hands aren’t just adult-sized: a primary component of the project is keeping kids in the mix. Last fall, a design day harnessed the creativity of Ballston Spa school district children to lay out their dream playground. Older students at the high school used Web design, CAD design and business promotion to experience aspects of `real-world` class projects to develop the playground.
To guide their brainstorming, FANS enlisted the help of the company Leathers and Associates of Ithaca to help coordinate the design stage.
`This is a group that specializes in custom-built playgrounds,` said McFarland. `We want to incorporate historical aspects, such as a replica of the Old Iron Spring as part of the architecture. The design will reflect our unique perspective as Ballstonians.`
Fund and friend raising
Keeping the project in the minds of village residents is paramount to the playground’s success.
You can help out by donning your most dreadful outfit and attending the `gaudy ball` on Saturday, March 8, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Club. The event will feature a DJ, appetizers and cash bar. Tickets are $40 per person if paid by March 1; $45 per person at the door.
`The idea is to come dressed in tacky formal wear,` said McFarland. `Think bridesmaids gowns and leisure suits.`
There’s also a picket fence campaign offering people a way to be a permanent part of the playground by buying a picket for $60 (or $50 each for two or more stakes) for fencing placed around the play gear. All purchased pickets will be stamped with the name of the sponsoring family or group.
The Ballston Spa House and Garden Club also participated in a raffle this month that served as a fundraiser slated to raise $10,000. Raffle items were selected to reflect the work of the garden club, including gift certificates to Balet Flowers and Dehn’s Flowers, and eight hours of custom garden design by Fern Hill Garden and Design.
`The odds of winning are very high, since only 50 tickets were sold at $20 each,` said Mary Colby, president of the club.
Colby said the club was selling tickets to show their support of FANS rather than making a monetary donation.
`We’re a small organization, and our members are on the elderly side, so we don’t have the funds to actually make a contribution,` said Colby. `But we’re devoted to civic activities, and this playground project is something everyone supports.`
FANS is always looking for donations and volunteers to pitch in with the building project this spring. For more information on the playground project and FANS, check out the Web site at www.fansofballstonspa.org.“