By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — LAKE PLACID — A rainy day made for a perfect playground workday Saturday.
A crew of about 25 parents and some youngsters, wielding rakes, finished spreading ground cover to complete Paw Print Park, the elementary school recess area.
New slides and swings were set into their foundations.
And big village-owned loaders moved piles of soft, fibrous ground cover under, around and piled up next to climbers, swings and bouncing platforms.
“It’s kinda springy,” Rylee Preston, a fourth-grader, said of the new surface spread almost 2 feet deep.
“It smells like forest kind of wood,” she observed amid a drizzling mist.
The work crew was called together by the FRIENDS group, the parent organization that crafted the playground using natural materials.
After two young students were injured while playing on and around some equipment, the Lake Placid School District and FRIENDS reconfigured recess grounds.
Stones were removed, some high climbing gear was retooled and the sand surface replaced.
The state education department required stamped architectural plans for for the uniquely designed playground, so the district brought in a specialist, Steve Lauzun, whose company Parkitects crafts playgrounds and landscape structures.
Lauzun worked with the crew Saturday.
He explained some of the technology involved in the work.
A layer of “filter fabric,” a natural textile, was placed on the ground first.
“It separates the chips from the sand,” Lauzun said. “If sand mixes with the chips they don’t work like they’re supposed to.”
The chips aren’t everyday mulch.
“They’re actually engineered wood fiber,” Lauzun said.
“It’s a very clean wood chip, no bark, no twigs, no leaves. Then they take the wood chip and crush it to end up with a fibrous product. That’s what makes the ground cover knit together.”
In time, the soft, spongy surface will weave into a soft carpet of wood fiber.
“It is ADA approved,” Lauzun said.
“Once it knits together, it is wheelchair accessible. This is one of the best surfaces for kids to jump into.”
Fifth-grader Michael Scott agreed.
Between turns with a rake, he tested some of the climbing and jumping stations.
“It’s better than just sand,” he surmised.
“It is squishy. That’s why I keep jumping in it!”
Evan Brenner, another fourth-grader, was also helping rake wood fiber into place.
“It is fun to play in,” he said. “It think it’s better than other playgrounds.”
Another engineer from Parkitects, Bill Johnson, checked each feature as it was placed in new formation around Paw Print Park.
“All pieces are fine-tuned,” Lauzun explained.
“He is standing in front of that climber with an iPad. He tells the iPad what piece of equipment it is, and (the program) serves questions to him. At the end of the day, we’ll have asked every question of every piece.”
Everyone took the day’s work to task, despite the rain.
“Rain helps keep the (wood) dust down,” Lauzun said. “This is perfect weather for it. It’s exciting to see this being re-created.”
The playground is quite unique with rolling mounds surrounding tunnels and a swingset.
It has been divided by a hilly “berm” into two sections, one for younger children and one for the older grades.
Lake Placid Elementary School Principal Javier Perez donned a safari hat to help stave off the rain as he raked.
Caution tape was wrapped around two new slides that were setting into their covered foundations.
Both are made of a tempered plastic with round edges.
“The students have asked me about the playground since we opened school,” the principal said, smiling with the work.
“We’re going to open it on Wednesday. The first group goes out to recess at 11 a.m.”
Perez said the community has stood behind the elementary school throughout the effort to improve and redesign Paw Prints Park.
“The parents’ response has been great.”
For Rylee, playing in the fields behind the school has been fun.
“But I’d like our playground back,” she said.
“It’s satisfying to see it being re-created,” Lauzun said. “It’s ready now. We just feel really happy about how it looks and works.”
Paw Prints Park even has a covered pole-barn, which will serve as an outdoor classroom.
The sturdy enclosure will be dedicated to retired Principal Richard Retrosi at 5 p.m. Friday.
The public is welcomed to join in for the dedication, and take a few minutes to check out the new playground.
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