Sunday | December 17, 2017
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Room to romp: With fundraising goal reached, community to reconstruct Anuenue Playground

WAIMEA — Vicki Missien remembers building the original Anuenue Playground.

It was 1992 and she was one of about 1,500 community volunteers who spent a week installing equipment, raising wooden fixtures and other components of the uniquely peak-styled play structure.

The playground, located in the town center, became one of the most popular places in Waimea for children to frolic.

Hundreds of keiki used it each day.

“It was an incredible experience,” Missien, a longtime Waimea resident, recalled Friday of the original project. “We remember it with so much emotion when we think about it. When you talk to people who helped we all have that same thought — just being able to say ‘I helped build it’ meant a lot.”

After years of heavy use, however, the original equipment began to deteriorate. In 2013, Missien and other volunteers formed a group called Friends of the Anuenue Playground which launched a large-scale effort to construct a modernized playground.

The group got approval from the county — the playground is located at Waimea Park — and has been fundraising for about a year. In June, it met its $400,000 goal which included several grants and donations from local businesses and residents.

The rebuild project is now in its final stages.

Volunteer crews leveled the original structures last week in preparation for a community build slated for Oct. 23-29. In a similar fashion to the original build in 1992, volunteers are asking community members at all skill levels to help install new equipment.

Build week will culminate with a grand opening of the new playground Oct. 29.

“It’s not just a building, it’s a real opportunity to come together as a community,” Missien said. “What I remember is how great it felt to be part of something so unique. We knew it wasn’t every single person in the community but it felt like every single person. There were so many people coming together. It was a really good feeling and so satisfying.”

The original playground was constructed out of wood which began to splinter and rot over time. Various parts began to break beyond repair, spurring the county to gradually board up severely broken equipment.

Volunteers led multiple community repair efforts through the years. Eventually, the group had an engineer assessment completed which determined rebuilding the structures made the most sense.

The new playground, designed by New York-based Play By Design, will have a similar “look and feel” to the original, group member Mimi Kerley said. Equipment will be constructed with a more weather-resistant, engineered wood material. The playground surface will be covered with wood fiber pellets, hoped to be more comfortable than artificial turf, that can get too hot for children who use equipment barefoot.

The playground also will include some new equipment including a rock climbing wall, a climbing net, an additional slide and several new climbing structures.

All equipment being added is ADA compliant.

Those who remember the first build say seeing original structures come down this week was bittersweet — though they’re pleased to see it replaced in a similar “community barn-raising” fashion.

“As sad as it was to see it come down, we’re rebuilding it in the same spirit,” Kerley said. “So I think those who remember building the original playground are happy about that.”

“This is something that’s beautiful and peaceful for children,” Missien added. “It’s a very special place and that’s why letting go of it just wasn’t an option.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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