The Committee has initiated work toward replacing the playground at the heart of Huntington Woods, with seed money in hand and a tentative start on the project set for 2013.
Committee President Lauren Hirsch told the Board of Education on Monday night that a contract is being negotiated with M.C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group Inc. of Grand Rapids for the project, which will include a complete teardown and rebuild.
Hirsch explained the structure was built 17 years ago and is nearing the end of its expected 20-year life span.
"It's not a physical hazard today, but if we don't put our plan into action, it will be in the future," she told Berkley Patch on Thursday.
Hirsch said that in the summer of 2010, Principal Maribeth Krehbiel asked the Parent Teacher Association executive board to examine problems with the structure, including:
- Rodents and stinging insects making it a home
Students at the school use Burton Community Park, which is owned by the Berkley School District and leased to the city of Huntington Woods, as a playground.
The committee — comprising approximately 18 people, including parents and representatives from the Berkley School District and the city of Huntington Woods — was formed to study the issue, Hirsch said.
The committee concluded that repairs could be made, but coupled with work that would need to be done to make the structure Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, "that would rocket us into the six figures," Hirsch said.
She conceded that the estimated cost for the rebuild project is $350,000. But while repairs may extend the playground's life by only five years, the committee plans to commission a new structure with a longer life span than the original, Hirsch said.
"It's our intent in going through this process that this be a park ... that lasts more like 50 years," Hirsch told the Huntington Woods City Commission during a presentation in September.
To ensure the playscape's longetivity, the committee plans to tap specialists rather than community members to do the construction, she said.
Hirsch added that the group consulted with Lou Rubenstein, Huntington Woods' code enforcement officer and a certified playground inspector, whom she said recommended the rebuild instead of repairs.
The committee will fund the work through a combination of grants and fundraising, Hirsch said.
"We are looking forward with much gusto and trepidation to the fundraising phase of this project," she said.
Larry Gallagher, BSD deputy superintendent of finance, facilities and operations, said Monday that "This group is very energetic, very well-organized."
Gallagher added that Huntington Woods has been approached, as the lease holder, to be the contractor on the project. However, it's still possible the district will be a joint contractor, he said. To be proactive, the district has put the project before its insurance carrier, Gallagher said.
"We haven't gotten into the logistics, but it's safe to say we'll play some kind of role," Huntington Woods City Manager Alex Allie said Thursday. "We're supporters of it, but we're waiting to see what the ultimate project is."
While some details still need to be ironed out, Hirsch said Thursday one design element that definitely will be incorporated is a barrier-free layout that ensures people with mobility challenges will have access to the playground.
"We're trying to open it up to as many members of our community as possible," she said.
The committee also is working on a plan to incorporate volunteers and donations, Hirsch said.
"It took a lot of people to raise the money and physically build the playground," she said. "And the heart of the community hasn't changed. We're hoping to tap into that beautiful energy."
Stay tuned to Berkley Patch for more information about how you can get involved and updates on the committee's progress.