TOWNSEND — A fenced playground, tucked into the corner by a school field, has a new group of supporters.
The colorful, plastic equipment sits on a bed of mulch. None of the mulch has been replaced in 15 years, said Cynthia Donovan Schuster. The level was 8 to 12 inches below the safety lines on the equipment and should be three inches about the line, she said.
The Cemetery and Parks Department forks up the ground cover at the Kids Kountry Playground each year, but new mulch should be added each year to keep it up to safe levels, Schuster said.
“It was really super low,” she said. The equipment representative told her that they should buy and spread three tractor-trailer loads of material.
And not just any material. The playground-safe mulch is called wood carpet, she learned. It has to meet state code and is wheelchair accessible.
“I was trying to do some fundraising to make this happen,” she said.
In December, she received an email from TJ Fetterolf. The Pepperell Troop 26 Life Scout wanted to take on the mulch situation as his Eagle Scout project.
With the help of lots of volunteers, the two have accomplished a lot.
Fetterolf raised over $4,000 on a GoFundMe page.
Schuster found an “awesome” deal on the mulch and bought a tractor-trailer load for $22 per cubic yard, much less than the upwards of $37 per square yard it would cost at retail.
The material arrived July 8, dumped just inside the fence. Fetterolf and his team set-to, moving the mountain with shovels and wheelbarrows.
It seemed to be a Sisyphean task.
Cemetery and Parks and the Highway Department came to the rescue, sending a front-end loader to move the mulch to the equipment areas. In minutes, they accomplished what would have taken days, Schuster said.
Now, the mulch is within three inches of the line. Schuster hopes that with the remaining funds raised by Fetterolf and what the playground committee has in the bank, there will be enough money for one more tractor-trailer load.
Fetterolf has already repaired and repainted the pavilion. He purchased replacement boards and new paint and Schuster got permission to change the color from green to cobalt blue. Blue is the new up and coming playground color, she said.
Before the warrantee on the playground equipment ran out, Schuster, Roger Rapoza, the Cemetery and Parks superintendent, and the equipment representative did a walk-through of everything in the playground and ordered all the parts that should be replaced.
From its beginning, Kids Kountry Playground has been a gift from many people. The original area was built by Sterilite, said Cemetery and Parks Commissioner Tubby Boucher. When the original pressure-treated lumber structures no longer met standards 15 years ago, the company stepped up once again.
“Karen Clement took care of the playground forever,” Schuster said.
The former director of the Recreation Department called Schuster last year and said, “You have small kids. My kids are all grown. Would you like to get involved?”
Schuster did want to get involved. Clement helped her learn the ropes.
The new coordinator researched playgrounds. She reached out on Facebook. She got a committee together and started raising money and making improvements.
Volunteers help with keeping the area looking good by watering the plants and keeping an eye on things. King Farm donated flowers this year. “I was driving by and I said, I’m going to give this a shot,” Schuster said.
The committee has installed signs and a new bulletin board.
“She jumped in with both feet,” Rapoza said.
Schuster’s activities have even caught the eye of some folks at Sterilite. When she was buying refreshments for the crew, a woman in line spoke with her.
“Oh, is that you?” the woman said. “I’m with Sterilite. We’re following all this closely online.”
“You’re doing a great job,” she said.
Donations can be made by writing a check to the Town of Townsend and including “for Kids County Playground” in the memo or by visiting www.gofundme.com/tjeagleproject.
The playground committee has a Facebook page, too. www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofkidskountryplayground/
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.