21 Aug 2014
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Souderton Playground Renovations Calling Community Together

A group of volunteers are in the midst of raising funds for a renovation to Chestnut Street Playground in Souderton Borough

The slide is rickety and sort of sketchy, and its metal gets hot in the sun. 

Youth in the area still love to use the platform of the slide as a pretend fort.

You can ride the springy duck or horse, but chances are, they are broken.

Lunch at one of the tables is nice, if you don't mind the graffiti. And relaxing in the gazebo can be placid - and you can get some nice sun from a busted out section from the wooden roof.

The Chestnut Street Playground, also known as the Wile Avenue Playground, at Wile Avenue and West Chestnut Street in Souderton is considered a hidden treasure in the borough. Located across the street from Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Souderton Mennonite Church, it is a popular gathering place for Souderton youth and the Lutheran church's Kids Care day care program.

Yet it is in bad need of repair. The last time it was rehabilitated was about 15 years ago.

That's where Ray Hopkins, Jenn Ruggiero and Souderton Mennonite Church Pastor Gerry Clemmer come in.

The trio, along with other volunteers, have started a community coalition to raise funds for the rehabilitation and renovation of the playground.

On June 23, there will be a block party fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in conjunction with Souderton's 125th Anniversary parade, which comes down West Chestnut Street right past the park.

On June 3, there will be another fundraiser through a luncheon at Dolly and Me Tea at Tilly Mints from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other fundraisers include a Rita's Local Celebrity fundraiser on May 29 and an eat-in at The Perk in Perkasie on June 11.

"All funds raised will go to the playground," Hopkins said.

Once enough money is raised, renovation of the park can begin in its three phases.

"As we raise money, we hope not to wait until all the money is raised to start working," said Hopkins. 

About $110,000 is needed to begin the first two phases, Hopkins said.

So far, about $20,000 has been raised.

Hopkins said the coaltion is looking for three block party hosts, with a $5,000 commitment. The company's logos and information will be published on handouts and publicity materials.

"It's an awesome idea to revitalize the park," said Clemmer. "It's used by all the neighborhood kids and by kids four and five streets up."

Clemmer said the playground is a tough thing to keep and maintain. And the playground does have its not-so-great memories with Clemmer: each of his two daughters made trips to the emergency room in their youths thanks to the slide.

The park is owned by Souderton Borough. A vision of what they want the park to be has been engineered and designed for them.

With the exception of an existing play structure, the gazebo and the picnic tables, everything else will be removed from the playground.

Here's what's planned:

  • A large modular play structure
  • Motion Play features like Scarlet the ADA Ladybug
  • A plethora of ADA spring riders 
  • A wheelchair-accessible Rock’N Ship play structure
  • Sensory play items like music panels and a Harry the Hippo tunnel whose anatomy is labeled in various languages and Braille
  • A swingset with inclusive swing seats and safety surfacing
  • Four picnic tables, with two being handicap-accessible

There will also be a five-foot macadam walkway around the playground and new trees planted in various parts of the space. A retaining wall will also be constructed around the area with the gazebo and picnic tables.

A new metal roof is planned for the gazebo, and Hopkins said the coalition will look to the Souderton-Telford Rotary for help with that. The group is also looking to Souderton Borough to provide security lights and possibly a CCTV camera.

According to Montgomery Newspapers, the plans also include a garden area with plants including an azalea bush and tulips in memory of Emily Morris, Souderton Independent and News-Herald editor, who was killed in an auto accident last month.

"The sensory play items are good for children with autism," said coalition coordinator Jenn Ruggiero. "We are trying to pick thoughtful pieces to target everyone with special needs."

Ruggiero said Souderton Borough Manager Michael Coll has written a grant for the playground efforts and they are waiting to hear back.

There is a plan to have benches and trees around the area that residents can help fund to memorialize a deceased loved one.

"We are taking the opportunity for people to purchase benches and trees as a form of memorial," Ruggiero said.

In the end, all money raised will be given to Souderton Borough to purchase the equipment and install it. They will maintain it as well when it's all finished.

Hopkins said there is much excitement behind an inclusive playground. He said there is a similar type of playground in Horsham.

"This is so close to the North Penn area and the Indian Valley area for families to come to," Hopkins said. 

He said the renovation needs to happen. There are volunteers and community members behind their effort. Local Boy Scout troops and Girl Scout Troop 7678 of Telford are volunteering their time to help raise money.

"If we are not looking out for each other, who is?" Ruggiero said. "We are not shwoing we really care about the playground. More people need to be involved from the community. It's not just our playground; it's everyone's playground."

Resident Jason Brickajlik, of J. Brick Heating and Cooling, said the renovations will greatly affect him and his family. He heard about the plans from a flyer for the block party.

"I can't wait to find out more," he said. "I have no doubt it will all come to fruition. It's an awesome idea."

Terri Nice, a kindergarten teacher with Kids Care, along with Kim Hughes, said the children love coming to the playground and climbing and hanging upside down on the metal monkeybar-like "spider." 

"I think it will be nice," she said. "They appreciate what's here."

She belived most youths tend to gravitate to Summit Park.

"They call this one 'the gross one.' I don't like that," Nice said. "We've been coming here for six years and we never had a problem."

You can view plans at  www.chestnutstplayground.org

Donations may be mailed to Souderton Mennonite Church, 105 W. Chestnut St., Souderton, PA 18964 or Souderton Borough, 31 W. Summit St., Souderton, PA 18964. Donations should be marked for the Chestnut Street Playground.

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