PUBLISHED: 4:53 PM on Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Project Playground inspires medical student
It has been almost three weeks since volunteers started construction on the new site of Project Playground at Twin Lakes and the playground is nearly complete. The rain and the clouds have not been enough to keep away hundreds of volunteers who have diligently worked to make the playground a reality. So many people, local as well as visitors, have come out to lend a hand in helping to build the playground that will be a great attraction and asset to the community.

"Building this playground has been a way to allow the community to be committed to a great common goal," said Catherine Pusich, who is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Project.

  Kimberly Fountain, amedical student at the University of Utah is training in Juneau. Her clerkship required her to write an article in the community-she was inspired by Project Playground.
According to Pusich, the primary motivation for this project came from local parents who have seen playgrounds in other areas that were built by the community. For example the company who is supporting Project Playground, Leathers and Associates, helped to build a playground in Haines, Alaska four years ago. The playground in Haines is utilized daily by local residents and visitors and has served as a wonderful place for children to play and for families to come together. Parents in Juneau felt that the local community here would also benefit from having a playground in the area for their children. This vision gave birth to the idea of Project Playground at Twin Lakes. In the fall of 2005, the preliminary plans were set into motion. Eager parents wanted to make the Playground a reality and they started by getting the word out and getting local people to commit to volunteer. By June 2006, the word was out and the fund-raising was well under way. Phone calls, picket sales, rallies and information booths were being held to help raise money for the project that was budgeted at $475,000. There have also been a lot of local businesses that have donated monies, food and other services to help make the project a success.

When I asked Pusich what was the motive behind the project, she said "If you asked 100 different people their motivation for being here, you'd get 100 different very personal answers." She said that volunteers consisted of moms who wanted to help so that their kids would have a place to play and there also people who do not have children but wanted to make a contribution to the community. Local physicians have volunteered to help and youth groups from local church groups have come to work as well. The opportunity to help build the playground has been rewarding for many, as one local bank used the opportunity to create a team building experience.

The Playground has many different structures that will be attractive to children. There are a number of slides, a lighthouse, a treehouse, an ice castle and even a glacier climbing wall. It has been designed to accommodate the handicapped and it has age-appropriate sections where younger children can play without having to worry about getting hurt on structures designed for older children.

Photos by Cody Bennett
  With happy faces, volunteers diligently work on Project Playground. The grand opening is scheduled for June 16 at 11 a.m.
Currently, the City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation staff are inspecting the Playground to ensure that it passes all safety standards following construction. The playground structure design was developed with Juneau weather in mind. The structures are designed to handle the 100 mile per hour wind shears and at least four of the structures will be covered so that children can still play in the rain.

If the playground in Haines is any indication, this new playground in Juneau has great potential to have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of the entire community. The Playground has given the people of the community a sense of pride since the playground has been built by members of the local community.

It is has allowed the community, families and local groups the opportunity to bond while enhancing their neighborhood. This opportunity has also provided physical activity and a chance to learn new skills or develop old skills in building and construction.

With childhood obesity at epidemic proportions, it will provide a safe and happy place where children of all ages and backgrounds can come out to play and get regular exercise.

The volunteer coordinators have been extremely supportive of volunteers who have come to help out. More information about the playground can be accessed at the website:

The grand opening for Project Playground is scheduled for June 16, 2007 at 11:00 am.