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Local

Park District Dish: Refurbished Batavia playgrounds find new life in other countries

Kids Around the World sends playgrounds abroad

Batavia's playgrounds find new uses around the world. Members of Kids Around the World are seen here in Fiji with parts of Prairie Path Park from Batavia.
Batavia's playgrounds find new uses around the world. Members of Kids Around the World are seen here in Fiji with parts of Prairie Path Park from Batavia.

Playgrounds have become synonymous with the field of parks and recreation. Actually, quite often, community members reach out to us at the Park District referring to their local park when actually they are referring to the playground. Open green space within a park or playground area is more times than not the first contact individuals ever have with their park district. I think this is because play is a crucial part of every child’s development.

Playgrounds have made tremendous strides since my childhood years when hot metal and concrete were commonplace in the world of parks. Nowadays, the choices are limitless when it comes to the colorful, educational, creative, and safe options that are available through local playground manufacturers.

As part of the Park District’s Capital Development Plan, one of the key elements of both the first and second generation plans, as well as all plans going forward, is the Playground Replacement Program. The Park District has scheduled the replacement of each of its playgrounds on a 15-year rotation. To date, 30 playgrounds have been constructed or replaced by the CDP program. The Park District invites residents to attend public input meetings and provide vital feedback in regard to what they are looking for in their neighborhood parks and selection of the final design.

“This program is critical because of safety, accessibility and increasing the play value of the equipment,” stated Jim Eby, director of capital projects. “After 15 years, the playground material begins to break down. It also provides us an opportunity to evaluate requirements for accessibility and making improvements. The program allows us to stay current with the newest designs that are being developed.” 

The Playground Replacement Program is a wonderful program ensuring that Batavia, on average, has two new playgrounds each year. Most folks wonder, though, where do the old playgrounds go? And that’s where the Kids Around the World organization comes into the picture. This organization, based out of Rockford, removes, refurbishes, restores, and relocates playgrounds all over the world. Since its inception in 1994, the organization has worked in more than 60 countries. It utilizes teams of volunteer groups that range from local churches to rotaries to Eagle Scout projects.

I recently spoke to the organization’s playground director Tim Clauson and asked him why it’s so essential that organizations like ours partner together.

“It’s important because we are providing play to children that otherwise would not have access,” he said. “It also aids other nonprofits around the world to really stretch their dollars. It supports mutual green initiatives to keep old playground equipment out of our landfills.”

Clauson said that the response in those communities is unbelievable. He loves working with the locals to help build the playgrounds and get them more invested in the project and their community.

I was curious to know where all of Batavia’s playgrounds had been sent. Parts of Saratoga Park went to Lebanon and Jamaica; Millview Park went to Botswana; parts of Engstrom Family Park also went to Lebanon and Jamaica; Hartfield Park went to Ecuador; Fidler Farm went to the Philippines, and parts of Prairie Path Park were sent to Fiji and soon to Nepal.

Big Woods Park and Payne Woods Park are both up for replacement in 2018. Playground removal began April 9 and the new sets are due to be completed by the end of June. The designs for the new playgrounds were selected at a public input meeting held in December 2017.

For information about the Park District Playground Replacement Program, visit bataviaparks.org. If you would like information about the Kids Around the World organization or volunteer opportunities, visit katw.net.

Katie Drum is the director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. The “Park District Dish” column runs the second Thursday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle. Contact Drum at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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