By Patrick Barnard
Two grass-roots fundraising organizations — Park Pals of Darien and the
Darien High School Stadium Field Committee — announced last week that
they have successfully met their fundraising goals, thus paving the way for
a new playground at Cherry Lawn Park and a new artifical turf field at Darien
The executive committee of Park Pals, including Lyle Carter, Sandee Kirchhoff, Laura Scales and Susan Vogel, announced last Monday that the group had surpassed its fundraising goal of $180,000 — with much of the funds coming in over the last three weeks of the fundraising drive.
“We are truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for this project,” Kirchhoff said in a press release. “When we launched our fundraising initiative three months ago we were hopeful that we’d reach our goal, but also recognized that there is no shortage of very worthwhile groups in town asking for financial assistance from the community. The fact that it took only three months to raise the money we need for this terrific new playground, is a testament to the community’s support of our parks and recreational facilities and its desire to see them improved.”
Park Pals began its fundraising drive in January and set a March 31 deadline, in large part because this date would ensure a late June installation of the new equipment.
“Our heartfelt thanks to the 42 members of our Park Pals committee,” Scales said. “Especially to Victoria Bieler and Janine Tienken, who led the effort to involve the business community in our project, Julie McLaughlin and Sarah Canelli for organizing our tireless volunteers who spent weekends distributing brick forms and answering questions, Charlie Barthold for our amazing website and all our school liaisons, who worked very hard to get the word out to the pre-school and elementary school families. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Park Pals project began almost two years ago when Kirchhoff and Scales approached the town to determine what could be done to improve the condition of the playgrounds at Cherry Lawn Park.
Kirchhoff and Scales volunteered to research equipment options, identify manufacturers, present a recommendation and budget for a replacement playground project and ultimately, to raise the necessary funds privately. The initiative became a true grassroots effort led by a group of moms interested in giving children a better and safer place to play.
The fundraising effort focused on outright donations and brick sales. The bricks will be used to create the new walkways from the parking lot to the new play areas.
Sometime in the next few weeks the Parks & Recreation Department will begin the prep work necessary to prepare the site for the new equipment (the town has budgeted $54,993 for this purpose in the Parks & Rec budget). The work will require the temporary closure of the Tot Lot and heavy equipment will soon be in the area.
In an interview last week, Rusty Shriner, chairman of the Stadium Field Committee, announced that his group had reached its goal of $1 million, and said he was thrilled that so many people from the Darien community stepped forward and supported a new artificial turf field at Darien High school.
“We’re very pleased that everyone on the community came forward to help us reach our goal in such short order,” Shriner said, adding that the field committee started its campaign in January. “We’re happy that so many people saw the town’s critical need for more field space. We’re looking forward to getting this new field on-line for the fall ...”
The new field — which will take the place of the current grass field in the high school’s stadium — will be covered with a special, state-of the art “in filled” artificial turf which looks and feels like real grass. It is a new material (much different from Astro Turf) consisting of grass-like fibers which are “filled” with tiny rubberized pellets and sand, thus giving the turf a slightly padded feeling (not too unlike natural turf).
The result is a durable, low-maintenance, high performance playing surface which enables athletes to sprint, cut and turn with greater ease and agility than on natural turf (in fact, some say it will give Darien’s athletes an unfair advantage over their opponents, if only in the short run, since many towns are now investing in artificial fields). It is also safer, in that it reduces the risk of certain types of injuries.
Shriner said the town’s current shortage of playing fields — coupled with the fact that about 70 percent of the children aged 8 through 18 in town now play in some kind of organized sports — means that fields such as the one at the high school have been “over-stressed,” resulting in poor field conditions.
The new field, Shriner said, will be very durable, and can be used for both varsity football and, thanks to its additional width, regulation soccer games. On any given day, as soon as the DHS football team is done using the field, a soccer team can march on and start using it right away, he said, because there will be no damage to the turf.
“This is going to quadruple the use of that field,” he said.
Another benefit of the artificial field, Shriner said, is the fact that it will drain much better than the natural field that exists today. He said the new turf will rest on a special drainage system which will channel the water away from the field. He said he recently watched a weekend lacross game at Brien McMahon High School, which has a similar field, during a heavy rain storm, “and there was no water on their field at all.”
Shriner said donations collected which are above what the field committee expected to raise will be given to the town and earmarked for a second artifical turf field at the high school (the Board of Education is currently contemplating adding a second turf field, however, funding for this has not been included in the 2004-2005 proposed budget).
Vogel said in an interview last week that donations to Park Pals which go over the amount to be raised will either go toward additional playground equipment for Cherry Lawn, or perhaps a new playground in one of the town’s other parks.
Update Monday, April 26, 2004
The RTM voted unanimously to accept a gift of new playground equipment from the Park Pals of Darien. The equipment was financed through the Park Pals successful fund raising effort, which exceeded their goal of $180,000. Representitives of the Park Pals received a standing ovation from the RTM members and members of the public who were present.
Update from Park Pals-letter to the Darien Times May 20, 2004
To the Editor
The Darien Times:
We, the executive committee of Park Pals of Darien, wanted to give an update
on the fundraising effort and equipment installation progress at Cherry Lawn
1. Fundraising: Through the contributions of over 700 families and businesses, we raised $269,000 privately. These funds will be used to purchase and install the new playground equipment for the tot lot and 5-12 year old play area. Our fundraising success has enabled us to add an additional slide and a whirl toy to the 5-12 year old lot, and to include screening landscaping around the tot lot. Once these additional costs are covered, money that remains will be set aside in a trust fund to be used for maintenance and upkeep of the playground. Given the generosity of so many in our community, it’s possible that no fundraising will be needed for the Cherry Lawn Playground for decades!
2. The Town’s Contribution: In the spirit of public/private partnership, last Monday the RTM approved the town’s contribution of $54,993, which will cover surfacing, fencing, and masonry. We would like to extend our gratitude to the RTM, the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen for their support of this very worthwhile project.
3. Installation Progress: If you have been to the park recently, you might have noticed that the 5-12 year old playground site is in the process of being prepared. Installation of the new equipment is scheduled for early June. You may have also noticed that the size of the site is somewhat larger. State codes, which changed since the first playground was installed, require us to allow for generous fall zones around all of the pieces of equipment to ensure the safety of our children. Equipment for the tot lot will be installed towards the end of June. If you are interested in seeing a 2-D rendering of how the playgrounds will be laid out, please visit parkpals.darien.org.
We are proud to say that the project is proceeding on schedule, and we are on track to have all the equipment in place by the end of June — just in time for summer vacation! Again, our heart-felt thanks to all who contributed both financially and with their time, to making the new playground at Cherry Lawn Park possible.
The Executive Committee of Park Pals of Darien
Park Pals of Darien Website
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