Pie-in-the-sky tastes delicious

Ocean Park Elementary School third-graders Ceaira Coffin and Kaitlin Draper-Myers try out some of the new playground equipment installed at the school last weekend. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

OCEAN PARK - When FOOPS, Friends Of Ocean Park School, started out in 1999, an improved playground for the school was a "pie-in-the-sky idea." They really wanted to do it, but didn't think it could ever happen.

After four years of raising funds, FOOPS installed the new playground equipment last weekend, and it will serve more than just students of the school.

"We now have a community playground," said Ocean Park Elementary Principal Bette Arne. "The closest playground was 10 miles away, so we now have a safe new structure for our kids."

FOOPS raised nearly $15,000 toward the estimated $30,000 price tag for the project. Another $21,000 was donated to the cause by way of a grant from a local charitable group, the Templin Foundation. Leftover money could be used to fund other endeavors, including school field trips, assemblies and book purchases.

All the work was done by parent volunteers, and overseen by representatives of the equipment manufacturers.

"Things have to be properly done, so they supervised it," said Arne. "We're surprised we got it done in two days."

The group of around 15 volunteers gathered to remove the old equipment and install the new. Items removed included an older wooden play structure, a slide, a set of monkey bars and a couple of big rocks.

"All of the equipment was surplussed," said Arne, "and the people who wanted it, came and took it away."

She said that some of the items were taken to be used at local neighborhood playgrounds. Arne added that the wooden structure had to be scrapped because it was treated wood.

"Everything else was recycled and put to good use."

The group may have to get together to do it all over again in the near future if the pending school bond passes. Current footprint plans for the school show new construction on the northwest side of the property, where the playground is currently located.

"We may have to make some adjustments when the final footprint is done," said Arne, "but we have a contingency fund for that."

No school district funds were used in the purchase or construction of the new playground, something Arne thinks will be a positive addition to the community as well as the school.

"There wasn't a playground up here for our kids or the community as well. And we felt it could only enhance the building by having some nice play structures out there."

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