By Anne O’Connor
TOWNSEND — What says a summer day more than the carefree sound of children playing?
Kids Kountry Playground has big, fantastical slides and climbing areas and enclosed chutes. It has a sandbox piled with toys, swings in two different sizes and a covered picnic area. It is all enclosed by a chain link fence and it’s free for anyone to use.
The only public playground in town takes lots of work and money to keep safe and attractive. Most of the work is done by volunteers.
The popular playground is reaching a challenging milestone. The 16-year-old equipment, inspected every year, is coming off warranty.
A rusty platform on the central structure needed to be replaced. The roughly 2-feet by 2-feet part was covered but the labor came to $1,000.
Or, maybe $1,500 if the rust was too much, said Cynthia Schuster. The volunteer playground director has not gotten the bill yet.
“It took a whole bunch of guys,” she said. A crew showed up to do the work which entailed partially dismantling the structure.
Schuster took over fundraising and other responsibilities for the children’s area in the corner of the field behind Spaulding Memorial School a few years ago.
Since then, she has been hands-on with what is an ongoing and growing project.
Some of the work is easy. A Facebook post can bring enough people out to make picking up the trash left by users quick.
But, just a week after a Girl Scout troop policed the area, there were plastic bottles and other trash scattered all around.
Fundraising is a big task for Schuster. The recent town-wide yard sale raised $1,200 from homes that paid to be on the map and sales of the map.
The guys from the Cemetery and Parks Department volunteer to cook at the band concerts that benefit the playground.
The Townsend Business Association and the Lion’s Club are on board to be sponsors of the playground. Bob Ellis, the new president of the Lion’s showed up with a $250 check.
The TBA agreed to sponsorship under President Lindsay Morand. Schuster is president-elect.
Schuster and Karen Clement, the former recreation director who passed playground responsibilities to the younger mother, tried to count up the groups and people who have contributed.
Sterilite built the playground twice, Clement said. When the original, metal equipment was deemed too dangerous to use, the Townsend-based company bought the more modern structures.
An Eagle Scout project bought a tractor-trailer load full of wood carpet, a chopped wood material that is less likely to cause injuries than mulch. The safe landing zone material meets current codes but before it is fluffed up for the season, it is a foot short at some points.
Schuster is good at networking. She knew just who to call to get that mountain of chips spread — Roger Rapoza at Cemetery and Parks.
“Roger got on the horn with the highway department,” she said. “They came with the biggest tractor I ever saw.”
The sandbox, planters and pavilion are from another scouting project. This year, an Eagle Scout will make picnic tables for the pavilion.
The Townsend Couples Club bought toddler swings and a climbing dome. They may have contributed some picnic tables too.
Kevin and Chris Smith have both come to fill the sandbox up, free of charge. Gary Shepherd spread some material left over from a playground donated to Spaulding.
The Cemetery and Parks Department mows, whacks the weeds and fluffs up the wood carpet to keep it at a safe level. The playground could use several more tractor-trailer loads to get the wood carpet at the optimum level, but at $2,000 each, it hasn’t happened, Schuster said.
The town chips in $1,300 for the portable toilet each year, but fundraising covers the added costs for a company to check it several times a week for cleaning and to prevent vandalism, she said.
The playground is covered under the town’s insurance policy, Schuster said.
The cemetery crew patched up the gate after someone backed into it over winter, but whole gate should be fixed, Schuster said. It is difficult to close securely.
A five-foot-wide handicap accessible stone dust path would be nice, she said. Her husband, owner of Fifth Gen Masonry & Concrete offered to install one for the cost of the materials.
Replacing the biggest structure could run north of $100,000, Schuster and Clement said. The main part of the new playground at Spaulding was $60,000.
“We need funds to maintain it,” Schuster said.
Kids Kountry Playground is included in the town’s open space plan, but the possibility of grants is low for a town with little diversity and few low-income families, Clement said.
These volunteers are working hard to keep the playground safe and attractive. But they need help.
Donations can be made by check payable to Town of Townsend. Write Kids Kountry Playground in the memo. Checks can be mailed to Memorial Hall, 272 Main St., Townsend MA, 01469.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.