Toddler playset in works at Pinnacle; CAES parents seek ‘Structure’ replacement

ON THE COVER: A new Pinnacle playset will be placed between the Pavilion and the ballfields, to the west of the tennis courts./ Photo by Karen Zuppinger.

By Karen Zuppinger

Chester may be getting two new playgrounds in the next two years, adding a new one at the Pinnacle for toddlers and possibly replacing the much-used “Structure” at Chester-Andover Elementary School.

Both will be privately funded, at least in part, and organizers are seeking donations.

Chester recreational director Matt McCarthy, who is managing the Pinnacle project, is working to secure money to fund the playset aimed at children 2 to 5 years old. “This is the age group that is least represented for activities at the Pinnacle,” says McCarthy. The proposed playground would be behind the tennis courts, between the baseball field and picnic pavilion. (click photos to enlarge.)

The playset would be about 30 feet by 40 feet, says McCarthy, and will include monkey bars, slides, tunnels and a bridge, all sized properly for littler legs. “The slides will be shorter as well as the space between the steps, to accommodate the legs of kids in this age group,” he says. Although the playground plans don’t include a swing set, McCarthy says that if he is able to raise enough money, one will be included.

McCarthy is in negotiations with two Massachusetts based companies: M.E. O’Brien & Sons and Northeast Playground Builders.

While McCarthy estimates the cost of the playset at $22,000 to $30,000, the town has already received a matching grant of $15,000 from the Department of Buildings and General Services with the state of Vermont.

Although some town money is available within its grant budget, the Select Board has asked McCarthy to raise money privately.

Donations to the fund are tax deductible and, so far, $2,000 has been raised.

McCarthy says that he would like the playground up and running this summer since the state funds only have a two-year life span.

Parents pitch in for CAES playset

The CAES playset would replace the wooden one that was built in the early 1990s, says Chris Meyers, a member of  CAES Parent/Teacher group, which is seeking to raise funds for its replacement.

“It was a community effort,” Meyers says of the castle-like Structure that stands to the east of the school. “We had members from all walks of the community pitch in — carpenters, architects and regular folks showed up and donated time, labor and expertise.”  He adds that he hopes the same effort will happen this time around. (click photos to enlarge.)

Meyers says that in the 1990s, pressured treated wooden playgrounds were very popular. But over time, the upkeep has become both laborious and costly: Broken boards have needed to be replaced and the wood has had to be treated and sanded to prevent splinters.

The school district also inspected the structure and concluded that it has a shelf life of about three years, Meyers says, adding that at the end of the 2016, the playground will be dismantled. He says he was told it could take an additional three years before the district could set aside enough money to replace it. When the parent/teacher group heard that, Meyers says, it decided to step in.

“We just couldn’t see the community doing without a playground for that long,” he adds. “Almost every weekend you will see parents there with their kids using it. It’s an important thing to have.”

The cost of the replacement playset is about $70,000. It will be made of steel and a composite material and will come with a lifetime warranty.  “The structure will have bridges, jumping steps, slides, swings, climbing and swinging features,” Meyers says. The group is hoping to raise money through a combination of private donations, fund-raisers and grants.

Meyers adds that he has a commitment of $20,000 from private donors, which will kick in once the group raises at least $40,000. Meyers says the donors do not want to start writing checks until they are confident that project will be completed.  The parent/teacher group has set a goal to have the new playground up and running by the end of 2014.

How to help

Your tax-deductible checks to the Pinnacle playset fund can be made out to: Chester Recreation Donation Fund. They can be given directly to Matt McCarthy or dropped off at Town Hall at 556 Elm St. or mailed to Town Hall, P.O. Box 370, Chester, VT 05143. For more information contact McCarthy at (802) 875-3603.

If you would like to make a donation to the CAES effort, checks can be written to CAES PTG and mailed c/o CAES PTG, Chester-Andover Elementary School, 72 Main St., Chester 05143 Attn: Chris Meyer, Tabitha Klezos or Laurie Birmingham.

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About the Author: Karen Zuppinger in a freelance writer and Chester resident. Her work has appeared in Vermont Magazine and Assisi's Online Journal of Arts and Letters. She is a winner of America's Best Short Fiction Award.

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  1. samantha says:

    The wood structure has more than enough room to accommodate up to 100 kids. As I have seen from the photos of what the new one will look like it won’t be able to hold a fraction of that. Yes, there are parts that need to be fixed but you don’t need to tear it all down to put up a smaller plastic one.