2012-08-02 / Front Page

Play Time

City agrees to take over playground maintenance

MANISTIQUE – Lighthouse Clubhouse, perhaps better known as “Project Playground” has officially changed hands. The wooden landmark, under the care of the local Kiwanis club for more than a decade, is now the responsibility of the city.

Lighthouse Clubhouse was the endeavor of a group of local residents looking to build a place for children to enjoy. Using various fundraisers, including selling balusters featuring the donor’s name, the committee successfully constructed what the community named the Lighthouse Clubhouse playground.

In 1995, the Project Playground committee, along with numerous volunteers, including Kiwanis members, put the finishing touches on the playground.

“The interesting thing about it was that it was such a big, community-wide project,” said Kiwanis member Barb O’Connor. “There were even groups of people who came from other communities to help.”

Following its construction, the Kiwanis group committed to stain the playground each year, beginning in 1996. This continued until 1999, when the remaining members of the original Project Playground group approached the Kiwanis club and asked them to take over care and maintenance of the playground.

“We had a big discussion about it,” said O’Connor. “It was a big responsibility.”

Despite its apprehension, the group voted 10- 9 in favor of taking over the

Above, signage for the Lighthouse Clubhouse playground is pictured. Recently, the Manistique Area Kiwanis Club relinquished their control over the playground, handing the maintenance duties over to the city. The club still plans to contribute financially to the playground’s upkeep, however, via its recycling program. At left, Linda Lowman of the Kiwanis Club hands a check to Sheila Aldrich, city manager, for the care and upkeep of the Lighthouse Clubhouse playground.

Lighthouse Clubhouse. Since that time, the members have been staining yearly, along with performing other care and maintenance on the structure.

Now, 13 years later, the club’s members decided it is time for someone else to take on the burden of playground upkeep.

“Our membership has aged considerably,” said Kiwanis member Lauris Barr. “We just don’t have the ability, among our members, to take care of it.”

After speaking for over a year with City Manager Sheila Aldrich, the club voted on May 22, 2012 to officially relinquish ownership of the playground to the city. For years, the city had been taking care of more labor-intensive maintenance, such as garbage pick-up, but the Kiwanis had upheld their end of the bargain by staining each year.

Adding to the club’s lack of manpower have been bouts of vandalism to the playground in recent years.

“There has been repeated vandalism at the playground,” said O’Connor. “They’ve spoken about having cameras put up, because kids are in there all the time, at different times of the day and night, but those cameras are so costly.”

One of the staples of the playground – the engraved balusters used to fund its construction – had even been targeted in the past. According to Barr, vandals have ripped out or destroyed numerous balusters over the years.

“Finally, we decided that it was to the point where we could no longer afford to pay to have the name put on there and replaced,” she said. “So we’ve just replaced the balusters.”

Vandalism to the playground is something the city has dealt with in the past, and plans to address more now that it is in charge, explained Aldrich.

“Anyone who has worked with the playground realizes how much it costs to keep up with the vandalism,” she said. “And you can’t just let it go – we have to keep it up. Our guys (Department of Public Works) are keeping up on it. I suppose it’s no different than any other community; it’s an ongoing thing.”

Along with the regular maintenance of the playground, Aldrich noted that the city plans to give the structure itself some much needed attention.

“We are in the process now of getting someone to go through that area and re-seal it,” she said. “As he goes along, he will refurbish areas if he sees it needs it.”

Next, the city plans to remove all of the old mulch and completely replace it, rather than placing new on top of old. This will likely take place in 2013, Aldrich added.

“We appreciate everything the Kiwanis have done and for all their years of maintenance to the playground,” she said. “We will do our best to keep it up and to keep it safe for kids and attractive for the community.”

Despite their formal exit, the Kiwanis club will still play a small role in the playground’s upkeep – via financing.

“We do a paper recycling project, and that money was always earmarked for the playground,” said Barr. “I think the consensus was that they wanted to continue to do the recycling and give the city that money for the playground.”

The club’s members collect unwanted paper products to bring to Manistique Papers. The funds received from each load will be put into an account to go toward the city’s maintenance of the playground.

In a recent meeting, the club voted to open up the collection to any members of the public wanting to contribute to the playground’s upkeep. Anyone wishing to donate their unwanted recyclable paper can drop it off at the Farm Bureau Insurance office, located on U.S. 2, right next to the Schoolcraft County Airport. For more information, call 341-5204 or email nmoulton@fbinsmi.com.

“This playground is really enjoyed by the kids in our community,” said Aldrich. “We want to keep it that way.”

Pioneer Tribune, courtesy photos

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