John Hay playground plans move forward

Backers of an effort to renovate the playground at John Hay Elementary (201 Garfield St.) remain hopeful that construction on the first phase of the project will begin this summer.

But just how far the work goes is up in the air, with the funding picture still unclear.

“We’re having to play this juggling act of what can we afford right now based on how much money we have,” said volunteer project manager Laura Malkasian Huggins.

Nearly $25,000 has been raised through the sale of commemorative, personalized pavers — mostly to school families — for placement on a permanent path on the playground. The hope now is to garner the interest of alumni and the community at-large for their own 15.5-by-4-inch paver — at a price of $250 — with the aim of taking some of the burden off of parents that already contribute to John Hay in several other ways. Because the cost of the paver itself is minimal, most of each contribution can go directly to other project costs.

“We’ve seen it work at other schools,” Huggins said of the effort. “And it was suggested that we give it a try.”

Donors can also sponsor a bench for $1,000, or a boulder or log of various sizes for a nature area on the edge of the playground, for anywhere from $115 to $2,100.

Huggins said the plan is also to seek a $100,000 grant from the Department of Neighborhoods due at the end of March. If the project earns that funding, it combined with the money already on hand would cover most of what was wanted in phase one.

Missing out on other grants has proven to be one of the challenges, she said. But beyond that, there’s no firm idea of what bid or bids will come back from contractors.

“It depends on how much competition is out there when we go out to bid, what time of year, what things cost, all of that,” she said. “So we have some unknowns we’re dealing with.”

Regardless, she said, work will get done to make the playground more usable, by regarding the site, getting rid of the puddles and mud that plague the site today — hence the project tagline, “No more mud,” — and adding play turf mounds.

“There’ll be some project at some level,” she said. “It just may not have all the bells and whistles we hoped for in phase one, that some might have to follow.”

Construction for the first phase is expected to take about 12 weeks.

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