The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

New playground breaks ground after years of planning

Volunteers needed to help erect PTA project at elementary school


Photo courtesy Tracy Gilson

A groundbreaking for the new playground at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School was helped along by representative's of the park's King Salmon sponsors. From left to right: Jeremy O'Neil (Providence Valdez) Pam Verfaillie (United Way Valdez) and Melissa Reese representing Valdez City Schools.

A call for volunteers to help build the new community playground is making its way through Valdez.

"There's three shifts a day," Alan Sorum said Monday night.

Sorum, who is a school board member, made the announcement Monday night during the board's regular meeting.

Work on the vast project began Monday, but volunteers are badly needed for completion in the coming days.

"If you show up they'll sign you up," Sorum said.

Volunteers can also signup through the website Additional information on the entire project can also be found on the site. The group also has a Facebook page under the same name.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held last week.

The project, which is being built at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School, is being billed as a community playground.

And what a playground it will be.

Projected costs for the playground are $322,000. Already, $291,506 have been raised in an almost non-stop fundraising effort the past few years.

"Our playground design is the result of careful planning and input provided by the children of Valdez," the website supporting the project says. " Students submitted drawings and met with playground designers to help determine which elements should be incorporated in the future playground. The Valdez Community Playground design is tailored to the Valdez community, reflecting our history, community interests, and local environment."

The playground will replace old and rapidly dilapidating play area that backers of the project say was in dire need of replacement.

The PTA began the project and a committee was formed for fundraising the playground, which is the first of its kind in Valdez. It has hired Leathers and Associates "to assist in the design and planning for the playground."

Photo courtesy

Tiles with handprints are just one of a number of fundraisers held to finance the new playground.

The group's website says Leathers has been part of over 3,000 playgrounds, including 10 in Alaska.

"As the motive for replacing the current playground, the safety of children is our first and foremost priority," the group says. "The playground design conforms with ASTM International and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards and guidelines. The new playground will be ADA compliant."

While the initial costs of the designer playground will be high with the covered-concept and professional design, it is believed that the careful design and community buy-in on the project will make for a long-lived playground with fewer maintenance costs.

Sorum said Monday that over 100 posts had been placed and that work was expected to go at a rapid clip - as long as enough volunteers show up to get the work done.


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