Leadership group working for Hillside children’s park | SteamboatToday.com

Leadership group working for Hillside children’s park

— One of the simplest joys of childhood is playing, but some children in Steamboat Springs are forced to use a parking lot as a playground.

That is going to change this summer, with help from the Leadership Steamboat Class of 2000. The class is raising funds and will contribute labor to buy and install a playground at the Hillside Village Apartments off Tamarack Drive.

The apartments are already slated for renovation by the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. The units will remain rentals, however.

“Hillside Village is one of the few places in town where families can live affordably. There are a number of single parents with kids and there’s no place for them to play,” RALF executive director Rob Dick said.

Dick said when he was approached by the Leadership Steamboat class about help RALF needed, he didn’t have to think twice.

“A playground is not an essential thing, but it’s a good thing,” Dick said. “I don’t think we would have been able to afford (a playground). We would have tried to solicit funds, though.”

There are 55 units in the complex with more than 20 children, he said.

Leadership Steamboat is a program that gathers community and business members in a year-long class, exposing them to all different segments of the community. The class has to complete a project that has some community merit. Class member Jeanne Whiddon said they toyed with the areas of transportation, volunteerism, a children’s museum or affordable housing for their project. When Whiddon approached Dick about what he needed, the playground and affordable housing won out.

“We picked this one because it was very a tangible project. It will be something standing for years to come that will make a difference and make a contribution,” Whiddon said.

Leadership Steamboat facilitator Sandy Evans said this is one of the best projects she’s seen because it has a concrete and tangible end.

“The strength of purpose behind it and the momentum behind it is wonderful,” Evans said.

The group of 19 students has been working hard since January, researching playgrounds and most importantly, fund- raising. Whiddon said they need to raise about $20,000 to design, purchase, build and install the playground. That figure also includes funds for preparing the surface for installation. So far, they have $6,000 in hand, but have financial commitments from several organizations that will push them ahead on their goal.

Leadership Steamboat is accepting any kind of donation, but has a donation structure. “The Cat in the Hat” is for donations of $2,500, “Winnie the Pooh” is for donations of $1,000 and “The Little Engine that Could” is for donations of $500 and under.

The class is also accepting in-kind donations and has already received offers from several local contracting companies, Whiddon said. Leadership Steamboat members are going to assemble the playground themselves and hope to tap into some local expertise, she said.

“We’re really counting on them,” she said. “We can’t do this alone.”

The playground will be located on a 40-by-70-foot plot of land between two of the Hillside Village apartments. Whiddon said that one of the class members, Becky Howlett, works at Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreational Services and had access to catalogs and brochures about playgrounds.

The group chose two large structures, one geared to 2- to 5-year-olds and the other geared to 6- to 12-year-olds. They will be made of durable plastic, she said, and one will be handicapped-accessible.

Parents in the complex have also offered to help put the playground together, which Whiddon hopes will happen this summer. Dick said a playground will hopefully contribute to a sense of neighborhood and community in the complex.

“We’re contributing to the quality of life at one of the best examples of affordable housing,” Whiddon said.

Anyone interested in donating to the playground should call Whiddon at 879-6048 or mail donations, payable to RALF, to Jeanne Whiddon at P.O. Box 770523, Steamboat Springs, CO, 80477.

— To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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