Irving donation supports playground safety

17 years ago
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By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer

    ASHLAND – The Ashland Playground Committee was the recipient of a $1,000 check presented by representatives from Irving Forest Products March 14 to benefit a project designed for use by community members of all ages.
    Rob Whipple, maintenance manager of Irving Forest Products was joined by Union President Bimbo Rafford at the home of Andrea White, located in Ashland, where the presentation was made.
    White and Jessica Fine have spent the last year organizing the committee and looking for ways to come up with the funds to construct a new playground in Ashland for all to enjoy. White contacted officials with Irving a few months ago and was pleased with the positive response she received from the company.
    “They (Irving officials) listened to what I had to say and indicated they supported community efforts such as the playground,” said White.
    Whipple noted that the company worked with an area school recently, providing material to make the school’s playground safer for children to use.
    “We helped coordinate and lay out the pre-kindergarten playground at Mapleton Elementary School. They needed (wood) chips there, so we provided them. It shouldn’t be an issue to come up with similar material for the Ashland playground,” said Whipple.
    Safety is a major concern, both on playgrounds and at mills such as Irving’s. That’s one of the reasons Irving has taken an interest in this project, said Rafford.
    “The big thing at the mill is safety. We (Irving staff) want to make sure the new playground is safe,” said Rafford.
    Irving staff support family-oriented facilities, since many have children of their own.
    “My daughter loves to play. We have many employees who have families – children. This will be an ideal place for them to spend time together,” said Whipple.
    Town officials are pleased with the committee’s efforts and support efforts to create a new playground for the public to use and enjoy. With the construction of the new school, new uses are being considered for the site currently home to the elementary school.
    “With construction of the new school in the works, we’re looking at the possible re-use of the elementary school for the recreation facility, police department and office space,” said Town Manager Jim Gardner.
    Gardner said although the committee has been considering various sites around the community, it might be worth looking at putting the playground closer to the school.
    “The best thing may be to look at repositioning closer to the school – bring closer to the meaning of a playground and the girls we’re honoring,” said Gardner, referring to the fact plans are to dedicate the playground in honor of the four sisters killed in an automobile accident almost a year ago.
    “We started the project in January 2006. When the accident happened organizers said, ‘hey, we’d like to name the project for the girls.’ We’re planning to dedicate the park in memory of the four sisters,” said White.
    White said she hoped the park would be a place for families to go on weekends and evenings to hang out and enjoy themselves. Locating the playground closer to the school will put the facility in an ideal location for children to access after school. It will also be a very visible location to honor the former students.
    “No matter how you look at it, kids will come from school and see the facility. A tree will be placed in a visible section in honor of the girls – the more visible, the better,” said Gardner.
    Other sites had been considered but issues arose, such as liability, that made them less likely options. Once the school system is finished with the elementary school and the property is turned over to the town, the land and structure would then fall under town insurance guidelines.     
    “With the school moved, the property reverts to the town. We have first option on the property. It would be up to the Town Council then,” said Gardner. “Having a central location is important. It’s a nice project – a beautiful project.”
    Being centrally located in town would be especially advantageous to residents living in the heart of town.
    “When I go to the library, I walk a straight line from my home through the field near the school to get there. If the field becomes the playground, it will be easy to access for many of us who live downtown,” said Fine.
    Fund-raising efforts continue as warmer temperatures approach. If the funds can be raised – it will cost an estimated $35,000 to complete the project – a site selected, and work begun when the snow is gone, the playground could be completed and usable by later this year.
    “We’d like to have this project completed before the end of the year. We’ve received several donations, including Irving’s contribution, but we still have quite a ways to go to reach our goal of $35,000,” said White, noting any and all donations are appreciated. “We welcome any donation, whether it’s just loose change or large bills. It all adds up in the end.”
    Jars have been set up in area businesses to collect donations to go toward the new playground. For more information on the project or to make a donation, contact White at 435-6363.