The wooden play structures of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield are destined for removal and replacement with safer and more durable playground equipment in a design determined partially by Port Angeles school children. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The wooden play structures of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield are destined for removal and replacement with safer and more durable playground equipment in a design determined partially by Port Angeles school children. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Dream Playground to be rebuilt

Second version of Port Angeles fixture to be ‘more awesome’

PORT ANGELES — Dream Playground version 2.0 will be bigger, better, safer and “more awesome” than the first, the Port Angeles City Council heard last week.

Steve Methner, president of the Dream Playground Foundation, said the existing playground at Erickson Playfield near Civic Field will be rebuilt in August and re-dedicated Sept. 11.

The new playground will have a rubber surface for improved safety, better sight lines for parents watching their children and exciting new features like high “fun-factor” toys, a larger central tree house, a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round and a zipline.

“In many ways, it will reflect the feel of the current playground,” Methner told the City Council last Tuesday.

“Hopefully it will just be more awesome.”

The original Dream Playground was dedicated Sept. 11, 2002, one year after the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

“We wanted to make a statement that we will build and think about our children of the future,” Methner said.

Over the years, the bark chips used for the ground cover at the city park have deteriorated, requiring four or five semi-truck loads of additional wood fiber, Methner said.

In recent years, there have been growing concerns about the “wholesomeness” of the facility, particularly around the ground cover and poor sight lines with nooks and crannies between the play features that can hide children, Methner said.

In May 2018, a child was pricked by an empty syringe not far from the playground, which led to an online petition to replace the wood chips with rubber matting.

“Things develop a reputational life of their own,” Methner told the council.

“In real life, there haven’t been that many events where we’ve had concerns. But reputationally, and the way people feel about their major playground in town, there became a bit of a mandate to do something about the ground cover there.”

Generation II Dream Playground will have a pour-in-place rubber surface similar to the synthetic surface at Quinn Redlin Kintner Memorial Park near Olympic Medical Center.

“It feels kind of like a basketball,” Methner said.

“This stuff is poured in place after the whole structure is built.

“It flows and conforms completely to the play structure so there won’t be gaps,” he added.

“There will be different colors that we can put on there, but it will be a continuous play surface that should last for decades.”

Methner displayed a 3-D rendering of the new playground prepared by Play by Design, a consulting firm that helped the foundation design the park.

“Visibility, safety, cleanliness and appropriate uses are the main things that we wanted to make sure were key in our design,” Methner said.

Play by Design and Dream Playground Foundation

Play by Design and Dream Playground Foundation

The nonprofit Dream Playground Foundation was formed in 2002 to care for the playground and to raise funds for its eventual replacement.

Methner said the foundation had raised about $130,000 toward the $500,000 replacement as of Tuesday.

“We have commitments for hopefully a substantial amount in excess of that,” Methner said.

The city budgeted $225,000 for construction of the Generation II Dream Playground in 2020, according to the 2020-25 capital facilities plan.

Local schoolchildren helped design the original playground, and a Play by Design consultant toured elementary schools to gather ideas for Generation II last spring.

“All of the ideas in the next gen playground, just like the first one, are informed by our own schoolchildren,” Methner said.

“That’s such an important part of something like this.”

Several features of the original playground will be saved and incorporated into the new park, including the Dragon Slide dragon, a totem pole carved and donated by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and hand tile kiosks with hand prints from children in 2002.

“Those hand tiles hopefully will stay until the next ice age or longer,” Methner said.

Methner said the Dream Playground is a key visual reference for the city and a major tourist stop for families heading to Hurricane Ridge.

“What we find is the Dream Playground is a hugely-used shoulder time activity for lots of families who visit Port Angeles,” Methner said.

“We hear that over and over and over. And it’s funny because reputationally locally, it’s started to suffer a little bit, but when you talk to people who are visiting it for the first time they continually, even now, say this is the most awesome playground.”

Volunteers will help build the new Dream Playground as they did 17 years ago.

Methner said the new park will have a front garden entrance, “lots of benches” for parents and grandparents and 360-degree sight lines.

“I want to say thank you for the merry-go-round,” Council Member Michael Merideth told Methner.

“They seem to have completely disappeared from the American landscape.”

“Well, you’ll see one here,” Methner said.

Council member Mike French said the new design addresses community concerns about the existing Dream Playground.

“It’s a real home run,” French said.

Methner said the new playground has to be great so that “people will want to take it back.”

“If it has any reputational issues, or if people are not feeling like it’s the most wholesome place to take their kids — and lots of families still do — we want to get out ahead of this to where this is where the kids ask to go play,” Methner said.

“It has to be that great. That’s how you take back a public space is you put the public back in it. That’s why I feel so strongly about this as a wonderful thing to support.”

For more information about the project or to get involved, visit www.padreamplayground.org.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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