PORT ANGELES — On Sept. 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and the crash in rural Pennsylvania, the original Dream Playground was formally dedicated. It was founded in the spirit of a united community with a commitment to future generations.
Fast forward 19 years. Time to do it again.
The Generation II Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield was formally dedicated on Saturday afternoon on the anniversary of the first playground — a date chosen for its significance to society’s collective psyche.Although the facility was opened to the public on Aug. 20, there were still sponsors to thank and people to congratulate.
Steve Methner, president of the nonprofit Dream Playground Foundation, said it was wonderful to cap off the project.
“It’s nice to put a bow on it and have an official end of the process,” he said. “It’s a big sigh of relief today.”
The original Dream Playground was razed earlier this year amid concerns about safety and maintenance.
And like the first playground, Generation II was designed by area school children, built by volunteers and paid for through a community fund-raising campaign.
The Dream Playground Foundation raised nearly $600,000 to build the new play area, which was originally scheduled for 2020 but was pushed back a year by COVID-19.
Original plans called for the play equipment to be assembled by community members over a six-day period in June, but a shortage of volunteers combined with a historical heat wave caused the project to fall short, despite the work of nearly 500 people who braved sweltering heat to take part in the build.
Additional construction delays were brought on by a shortage of raw materials.
Supplemental build sessions were hastily arranged in July to complete the play structures. Included was a “strike crew’ of workers who toiled every weekend to knock out detail work.
An artificial play surface, designed specifically for playgrounds, was installed in August.
The first Dream Playground had fallen into disuse by parents who were becoming increasingly afraid for the safety of their children because of the presence of transients in the park and the wood-chip play surface that could conceal drug paraphernalia and other nefarious items, Methner said.
“Our playground started suffering from a reputational decline,” he said. “Families, understandably, started using other places that felt cleaner and more wholesome.”
The new playground, built mostly of modern composite materials, has clear sight lines for parents to keep watch on their kids and features more open space, making it more appealing. The artificial play surface offers no place to hide unwanted items.
“Here’s the best part,” Methner told the ceremony audience. “I’m happy to tell you that along with a massive increase of fun at Erickson Playfield, we have seen a marked decrease of inappropriate use at the park.
“It’s not perfect but we’re staying on top of it. With everyone using (the park), there is little room for anything but the fun kind of monkey business.
“It’s always been my feeling that the best way to take back a public space is to put the public back in it.”
Foundation board member Don Droz, who was present at Saturday’s dedication, said he was impressed at the final outcome.
“I’m really excited — I wish my kids were younger so they could play on it,” he said. “I think it’s amazing. It’s well exposed now and it looks so much cleaner
‘It makes ME want to play on it.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected].