GOLD BAR — The 30-year-old playground at Gold Bar Elementary had been showing its age.
It was to the point that people who grew up in the area realized they’d played on the same playground as their children.
Finally, on Saturday, following an intense couple of months of fundraising, it was replaced. Gone are the bent and split support poles, and the cracked platforms that flexed with each step. No longer do children have to run across a bridge with bolts that had been warped from overuse, or swing on monkey bars that, over the winter, fell off and had to be welded back on.
Now, children have more slides and more swings to play on. There’s an oversized xylophone, and equipment made for those with disabilities.
It’s just in time for more children to be allowed back to school, as the district cautiously loosens pandemic restrictions, welcoming third-graders back to the fold on Monday.
Principal Heather Anderson said it was an example of a community coming together to do something good, during a year fraught with challenges.
Earlier in the year, Alaina Solada, a teacher and vice president of the school’s parent-teacher organization, decided it was time to do something about the playground. She started pitching the idea to her third-grade students, asking them what they’d like to see. “Slides, slides, slides,” they chimed — and more swings, too. (There are now three slides, compared to just one before, and six swings.)
When Solada called the company that originally built the old playground, she learned the school couldn’t buy parts to modify the existing structure. The company informed her the playground was in such bad condition it should be condemned.
So Solada researched what it would take to build a new playground. Eventually, she talked to Michael Yates, a local sales representative for Buell Recreation. Together, they decided on an $80,000 playground, which the company then discounted to about $60,000.
Yates said he was impressed with Solada’s vision, and recognized the playground’s importance to Gold Bar, where recreation opportunities for kids were few. The field in which it’s located is one of the biggest open spaces in town, and is where the Gold Dust Days heritage festival is held in the summers.
The sales representative said he figured it was the beginning of a fundraising process that would take two years or so, not a handful of weeks.
Solada, Principal Anderson and others began “dialing for dollars.” Solada grabbed her husband’s phone and went through the list of people they knew who worked for trucking companies. Several pitched in to the effort.
Local businesses joined in, too. The Gold Bar Market put out a collection dish at the cash register, asking customers if they’d like to donate. Invara Pharmacy in Sultan gave away 10 percent of profits for two months to the cause. Sultan School District board members doled out their year’s salary, totaling more than $14,000. The city of Gold Bar also put forth a significant contribution, Solada said.
In all, more than 150 people donated, Solada said. And when the fundraisers neared their goal, Romac Industries put them over the finish line with a $6,000 contribution.
On Saturday, the play area became a mess of dirt and concrete and plastic, as volunteers adorned in orange and green neon shirts assembled the new playground.
Yates, the sales rep, helped out as well.
“I figured if the principal has her galoshes on and is sloshing around in the mud, I better pull my weight,” he said.
Anderson, the principal, said a quarter of disciplinary referrals come from recess. She thinks they’ll go down with the new playground, partly because kids won’t have to fight over sharing the equipment.
In an update on a GoFundMe page, she thanked people for their help.
“We know that it takes a village to raise kiddos,” she wrote, “and we have an amazing village out here in the Sky Valley.”
Solada said she had just been reading the book “A Day at the Park” with students. They asked where the playground had gone. She said a new one was being built. Their eyes lit up, she said, as she told them about all the new equipment they could soon be playing on.