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8/28/2013 2:00:00 PM
Volunteers Build Great Salt Bay Playground
Volunteers place the finishing touches on the playground Sunday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Jenny Mayher)
Volunteers place the finishing touches on the playground Sunday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Jenny Mayher)
By J.W. Oliver

The new Great Salt Bay Community School playground is complete and open to the public after a five-day, barn-raising-style build with 252 volunteers Aug. 21 to 25.

The playground features new equipment, including multiple slides and places to climb, new swings and a "tire monster," as well as a rejuvenated gazebo and geodesic dome from the old playground.

"We feel giddy," said Jenny Mayher, a Great Salt Bay parent and playground committee member. "It's bigger and better and more fun than we expected in our wildest dreams."

The process began 2-1/2 years ago with the desire of a few parents to address safety issues with existing equipment and partner with the community to create a new, one-of-a-kind playground.

The playground committee raised close to $100,000 for the project through events like a fishing derby and a flea market, a Kids Make Change campaign, and donations and grants.

Learning Structures Inc. of New Hampshire, which specializes in community playground projects, gathered comments and drawings from students and the public to create a design for the playground. The company also coordinated the build.

Jenny Mayher, a parent and playground committee member, said the $100,000 budget breaks down to about 30 percent each for building materials, ground cover and site work, and the fee to Learning Structures.

The 252 volunteers during the course of the five-day build included 138 Saturday and 100 Sunday for the labor-intensive weekend work. The volunteers, among many tasks, lifted the gazebo by hand and moved it across the playground to its new home.

"When you're in among a beehive of other people who are working and sweating and you see this progress, it's really fun," Mayher said.

"Everybody had a smile on their face," even during the most physically challenging jobs, Mayher said. "It was just a really good feeling from start to finish."

"The lunches were unbelievable. It was really good for morale," Mayher said. "Almost every restaurant and farm and grocery store in town contributed to the lunches and snacks."

Local businesses and organizations also provided many of the volunteers.

The staff of Great Salt Bay Community School accounted for 25 of the volunteers, while Lincoln Academy and Lowe's sent 35 and 25, respectively. Camden National Bank and the Central Lincoln County YMCA also furnished labor.

The build concludes "18 months of pretty solid work" for the playground committee, Mayher said.

"Unlike some projects, this one actually has an exclamation point at the end of the sentence," she said. "It's a concrete accomplishment, so that makes it very satisfying."

The group still has a couple of swings and other minor features to install, Mayher said. The next big project will be a walking path around the playground.

"The walking path would be a really great resource for all ages in the community," Mayher said. Elderly people and people with disabilities could use the path and mothers with strollers could walk while their other children enjoy the playground.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at the playground Friday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. with the student body present.

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