Community volunteers build playground at State College’s Orchard Park

bmilazzo@centredaily.comJune 26, 2013 

Xavier Donovan and his little sister Elizabeth Donovan said they are going to bike to the Orchard Park playground when it opens Thursday and check out every new attraction the park has to offer.

“The first thing I’m going to do is go on the snail slide,” said Elizabeth, 5, while Xavier, 8, said he wants to try all things that spin.

About 175 volunteers from across Centre County and beyond were part of the Orchard Park Playground Project on Tuesday.

State College teamed up with the Pennsylvania Municipal League and KaBoom! — a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit dedicated to creating safe play spaces for children with the help from the community.

Rick Vilello, mayor of Lock Haven and president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, said KaBoom! provided the park with $160,000 worth of equipment and items for the landscaping that surrounds the playground.

But KaBoom! representatives said a price couldn’t be put on the community-organized project.

“When enough people come together, this project is priceless,” said Naudy Martinez, spokeswoman and a project manager with KaBoom!

Martinez said the borough submitted a grant application to partner with KaBoom! about two months ago.

Alan Sam, a borough employee and member of the playground planning committee, said a study showed that about 1,500 children use Orchard Park and that a playground would be beneficial to that area.

“We wanted to build a park in an area that impacted the largest number of kids,” Sam said. “It’s rewarding when you can develop a good project and get a lot of good work out of people.”

In April, he said, the borough hosted a design day with children from the YMCA who offered their ideas on their dream playground. The children’s visions were submitted to KaBoom!

“They wanted ropes, a 20-foot slide and lots of things that spin, and that is exactly what we have provided,” Martinez said.

The playground palette— purple, teal, yellow and other bright colors — was picked through an online community vote.

“This playground is for the children in the community and built by the community, so we wanted locals to be a part of the design process,” Martinez said.

Volunteers began working at the playground around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 3 p.m., the playground was complete and a path was cleared through a nearby wooded area. The park also includes a seating area and landscaping adjacent to the playground.

“I really can’t wait for it to be done,” said Xavier, who accompanied his mother, Sarah Rito, and grandfather, Paul Rito, as they joined in the process.

“It’s really great to see so many people come together to build something the children will just love,” Sarah Rito said.

“We get stuck in the day-to-day work schedule, so it’s nice to be able to get active in the community,” said Sam, who also took time to volunteer Tuesday.

Vilello said the park is expected to open to the public Thursday.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @M11azzo.

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