Anyone for pirate ships?

By MIKE CONDON, Editor
Published: Nov 6th, 7:14 AM

ROXBURY TWP. – Here’s what’s been decided so far: The new Imagination Station is going to contain a large pirate ship, with a steering wheel, with many sliding boards leading off of it.

That was one idea, according to Imagination Station volunteer Barbara Martinez, that was taken to heart by architect Dennis Wille, of the firm Leathers and Associates of Ithaca, N.Y.

The world-renowned playground designing firm is once again back in Roxbury Township, 20 years after it first helped more than 1,000 Roxbury volunteers construct the first Imagination Station playground at the Horseshoe Lake recreational facility in Succasunna.

Because the all-wooden Imagination Station no longer meets playground safety standards established by the state, it must come down. In its place will be constructed the new Imagination Station.

And at the Eisenhower Middle School last Wednesday evening, Martinez, who spearheaded the first volunteer effort nearly 20 years ago, was among the approximate 250 volunteers, parents and children who attended the “design day” meeting.

This time around, Martinez, of Succasunna, is a member of the steering committee, while Sandie DiDomenico, Michele Clark and Lisa Falco are the project’s general coordinators.

The ladies, along with Wille and Leathers’ project manager Kyle Cundey joined other volunteers in visiting each of the Roxbury district’s grammar schools Wednesday morning and afternoon.

The idea, Martinez said, was to gain as much input from students in grades K-4 as possible as to what they would personally each like to see in a new playground.

The best ideas, or the common themes, were recorded by Wille, who later drew up a sketch of what a new playground might look like.

“The meeting went wonderfully, and we had a great turnout,” Martinez said. “We signed up more volunteers and we are really trying to get the message out there that this is a community event. It’s not a township project. We really need the volunteers,” she said.

“Everyone who came was enthusiastic. The children were super enthusiastic. And the architect (Wille) just did a great job. He is so into it, and he really got the children excited about having a hand in planning what it’s all going to look like,” she said.

“By the end of the day, we had a sketch. We have some idea now of what it’s going to look like,” she said.

One of the things that will replace the now castle-like façade is a giant pirate ship structure, she said.

“One little boy said he wanted the ship to have a steering wheel, so that will be included in the plans too,” she said.

Other requests, which will be included, are a spider web-shaped rope climbing maze, swings, and slides coming off of the pirate ship structure.

A climbing wall and a balance beam were among other popular requests.

“A lot of kids also said they wanted to be able to race around the structures without touching the ground, like you can do at some parts of  Imagination Station now,” she said. A rocket ship structure was another request.

“We wrote all of the ideas down, and met back at the rec. center with Dennis (Wille),” she said.

Some ideas, such as a trampoline and a “zip line” had to be rejected because of safety reasons, she said, and still some other ideas were outlandishly undoable.

“A lot of the kids asked for things like upside down tunnels and upside down sliding boards. Some of the ideas were very clever, but some things just can’t be done,” she said.

Wednesday night, Wille also showed slides of other playgrounds around the country- and the world- that his firm has helped communities design.

In addition the committee volunteers, more than 1,000 community members will be needed to rebuild the playground in the spring.

“We have an Eagle Scout who is going to do the planters and the seats as well,” Martinez said.

But first, “Demolition Day” is the main objective. That’s planned for the weekend of Nov. 13 and 14.

The township will assist with the removal of all the wood and materials, she said, and will also provide the crane necessary to remove the “turrets” that surround the current playground.

“The township will start the work on Nov. 11 and 12, and the volunteers will complete the demolition on that weekend,” she said.

In addition, fundraisers are beginning. Organizers are planning on all of the labor and tools being donated. But, the plastic composite materials, along with rust-proof metal, will likely have to be purchased. The project, Martinez said, will also likely have to go out to bid.

“We don’t know what the cost is going to be yet for the materials. We are still waiting for a materials list, and then, we can price it all out,” she said.

“Some of these materials can only be purchased from a few different locations around the country,” she said.

Organizers are selling engraved “pickets” for the picket fence that will surround the new playground in the future. Flyers advertising them can be found in the schools and at the recreation department office.

In addition, Martinez said students district-wide will be conducting a “penny drive” to raise money for the project.

‘For My Kids’

Clark, who is co-chairing the organization committee, said she is excited because her 3 and 5 year old will literally be able to tell their friends that their mom and dad built their playground.

“It’s exciting. It’s a lot of stress, and it’s daunting, but it’s exciting,” she said.

“The meeting went great. We weren’t sure what the turnout was going to be like. We worked hard to get the word out, but you never know. But it was great. We must have had 300 people there,” she said.

“You really get that overwhelming feeling that you are doing something for your kids, and for all of the kids,” she said.

She said the “Pennies for Playground” campaign was done 19 years ago, and was very successful in raising funds.

“We are going to do that again. The kids have been great. And Dennis (Wille) really engaged them. He walked them through what it’s going to look like. It’s kind of cool looking, but then I kept thinking that we have to actually build it,” she said.

“We have to lug the materials, and cut them and put it all together. I’m really excited, but it’s stressful at the same time,” she said.

Children, she said, will also be asked to come up with ideas to supply a time capsule, which will be buried somewhere on the site. Incidentally, a time capsule was buried 20 years ago as well. And it’s somewhere in the Imagination Station. That, of course, will have to be dug up as well.

Just something else to look forward to, Clark said.

Beats Expectations

Councilman Fred Hall, who is working with the volunteers, said last Wednesday’s meeting exceeded all of his expectations, and said there were not only many adults, but also more than 100 kids there.

“The attendance was just unbelievable. The consultant (Leathers Associates) are true professionals. They really know what they are doing, and the coordinating efforts that have been done by these volunteers has already been extraordinary,” Hall said.

“The designs look spectacular. They really tried to incorporate most of what the kids wanted,” Hall said.

“Some of the kids asked for a hot tub and a bungee jump. I can definitely say we are not going to include those in the plans,” Hall said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer for a committee, to volunteer for construction and/or demolition or wishing to make a cash donation can contact DiDomenico at (973) 927-5274 or Martinez at (973) 927-5391.