Playground will be an asset to the community, school or no school

I was extremely disheartened with the Times’ May 9 editorial “Who will playground serve if the school is gone?” The editorial addressed concerns about the need for the proposed $1.2 million Northwest Territory Community Playground at the current site of the city-owned playground adjacent to Washington Elementary.

It is true that if Marietta City Schools consolidates to one main campus in the future, Washington School will close, and those students won’t be utilizing the playground. However, to imply that an operational school must be on that site to justify the cost of a new playground is missing the point.

My family lives a few blocks away from Washington School, and we use that playground frequently. The entire community does. That’s why it’s a community playground, not just a school playground. It’s a meeting space for parents and children, a destination for kids of all ages. Many visitors to the playground are not affiliated with Washington Elementary at all. It’s simply a great place to gather and play.

“Do the demographics of the neighborhood include many young children or skew toward retirement age?” the editorial asks. How about you go to the playground after school hours or on the weekend and see for yourself? There are always kids and families there; they don’t have to reside in the neighborhood to play. It’s right by the library, so there’s a constant flow of patrons using the children’s section. I know many children and their caretakers arrange to meet friends there, because I’ve done so myself and still do on a weekly basis. Kids from the neighborhood and beyond use it.

A safe, sturdy playground in a highly trafficked area that’s easy to get to by bike or foot can only do good for our city. The current playground on that site is aging and has drainage issues, but its very presence tells visitors and newcomers that we value public gathering spaces and livability. It encourages the citizens of Marietta to get outside and talk to each other. It builds community. It gets kids moving and away from screens. Imagine what a more welcoming and safer playground could do! If Washington School were demolished, what else would we put there – a vacant lot? A giant parking lot?

If we use demographics to prove Marietta’s population is aging, we’ll never build anything new. This city will crumble and die because we send out the message we don’t want vitality and improvement. We need to move forward to be viable. And that includes, god forbid, building a new playground every two or three decades.

Sara Bir