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Playground project to begin this summer

At a glance:

≤ Northwest Territory Playground will soon be renovated.

≤ Ground will be broken after school ends for the summer.

≤ The hope is to have renovations done by the start of school in the fall.

≤ Approximately $100,000 will be used for the project.

Source: Times research.

After a four-year delay, the Northwest Territory Playground at Washington School in Marietta will finally be renovated.

The original design plans in 2017 had a projected cost of $1.5 million on the city-owned park.

“We’ve raised a little over $100,000,” said LeeAnn Johnson, a Fountain Foundation member. “(But) we have completely condensed the project from the original design in 2017.

The Fountain Foundation formed as a fundraising nonprofit with eyes on the playground, including the renaming of the city asset after momentum from 2017.

But Johnson said in a challenging economy and region where fundraising “isn’t always spectacular,” the foundation’s committee wanted to put the money to use quickly.

“COVID put us on hold,” said Johnson. “We’re working with the city and Marietta City Schools. We’ve had some great collaboration and we’re excited we’re going to break ground after school is out. We want to start school with a new playground for these children.”

Washington Elementary Principal Alison Woods said that there is always someone on the playground, and having it updated will be good for the community.

“It will be great to have it restored just so people can use the Washington Playground for years to come,” she said.

Johnson explained the footprint of the playground won’t change.

It will still occupy the lot on the corner of Washington and Fifth streets between the school and the Washington County Public Library.

“The fathers of Marietta, in their wisdom, deemed it a public space forever,” Johnson continued. “It’s always been shared as a playground and is greatly used by neighborhood kids.”

The playground is closed to the public during school hours, reserved for students from Washington Elementary School.

She said some of the equipment creates safety hazards and part of the playground becomes a ‘mud pit’ when it rains.

Wendy Myers, another founder of the Fountain Foundation, and former Board of Education member, said that some of the equipment on the playground is 25 years old.

“We had a very ambitious plan with a lot of community members. $118,000 is being used to work with the city and schools to make it safe,” said Myers.

To help with the ‘mud pit’, the basketball courts will be rebuilt where the current soccer field is.

The hope is for concrete basketball courts to create a cleaner environment for the students and neighborhood families.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Will Hampton also previewed new courts, nets and some lighting installed as part of the project.

The asphalt where the basketball courts are will be torn up and new equipment will be added.

Hampton said it will be replaced with “shiny new things” for students to enjoy.

“We’re relocating some equipment from Harmar (Elementary) and have some brand new equipment,” he explained. “There is playground equipment that’s been there a minimum of 40 to 50 years. It was old when my kids were little.”

Johnson said other pieces will be removed that do not meet safety codes, including playground pieces closest to the elementary school.

“We’re also going to potentially put in more swings,” she said. “We’ll have new updated little pieces of equipment for the younger kids in kindergarten and first grade. We are also going to have an ADA-accessible piece of equipment.”

ADA-accessibility is the standard of creating equity required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and requirements for wheelchair clearance.

Hampton said the playground is a hub of activity throughout the summer and into the fall.

“We’re going to start the first part of June and we hope to have it all together and ready to roll before fall,” he noted.

Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher said the city would supply much of the labor to remove the old equipment in some of the areas getting refurbished.

“We’re going to shut down the playground and remove everything and coordinate the new basketball courts that are going in and add some additional LED lighting,” he said. “We’re going to do all that with our crews, but the concrete work we’re going to hire out.”

City crews will also have some drainage work and overall repairs on the playground.

“We’re going to have some sidewalk work on Washington Street and Fifth Street and the Fountain Foundation will hopefully have enough money to replace the fence around the playground,” said Schlicher.

ADA work on the school side of the playground, including an ADA-compliant ramp is also in the plans.

The traffic light at the corner of Washington and Fifth streets will be replaced with a functioning red-yellow-green signal, Schlicher added.

“We’re going to have a lot of work to be done, but the outcome will be amazing,” said Hampton.

“We’re hoping to have picnic benches, as anytime you go by, there’s family activity there,” Hampton added. “We want this to be a family place and a point of gathering. It’s pretty exciting.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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