SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 22, 2013

Parents create a playground — and a community — in Ipswich

New play area will have tree house play structure, zip lines, musical instruments, gardens

IPSWICH — When it came to designing a new playground at the Winthrop Elementary School, the students’ imaginations were boundless.

They wanted a roller coaster, a petting zoo and a human catapult. Yes, a human catapult.

While those features didn’t make the cut for obvious reasons, the children will be getting a new playground this fall — a much-needed improvement to a play space the kids described as “grungy, old, broken and worn out.”

The new playground will have a large tree house play structure, an obstacle course, zip line, swings and a separate preschool area, among other amenities. It will also feature many natural elements, such as slides built into hills, a boulder climb and six raised garden beds where students will grow vegetables and flowers for the community farm program.

“It is going to be a real blend of natural and built structures,” said Michele Wertz, a member of the Winthrop School Playground Committee.

There have been plans in the works for years to replace the aging playground equipment, but there wasn’t money available in the school budget. So last fall a group of parents banded together to start raising funds. Not only have members of the community committed to raising the money, they will also help with the construction.

The committee is looking for volunteers to give a helping hand the week of Sept. 11 to 15. They need 150 volunteers to help with construction, landscaping and child care and to prepare snacks and meals for the workers. The group has hired Play by Design in Ithaca, N.Y., to oversee the project. The total cost is $250,000, with more than $200,000 raised so far.

Wertz said a lot of the design elements came during a design day held at the school in February where students and parents met with the architect to brainstorm ideas for the playground. Each student had a chance to draw what their ideal playground would look like.

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