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Kids rule in Valpo park redesign

Valparaiso students react an announcement features new ValPLAYso playground Thursday January 30 2014 Thomas JeffersMiddle School. The popular 20-year-old playground

Valparaiso students react to an announcement of the features of the new ValPLAYso playground on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The popular 20-year-old playground is getting a re-design with help from the city's students. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:12PM



VALPARAISO — After a day of input from virtually every elementary student in the city, organizers unveiled the new plan for Valplayso playground Thursday night.

The design was the vision solely of the children, collated by adult facilitators and Leathers Associates of Ithaca, N.Y., which specializes in community-built parks.

“We’re really going to be led by people who want to do it for their kids and others,” Parks Superintendent John Seibert said. “We want to thank all the kids for all you did today.”

What a gymnasium full of students, parents and community leaders saw at Thomas Jefferson Middle School was what Jane Lewis Holman of Leathers Associates called a “schematic level” plan.

However, the final stage of the roughly $1.2 million Valplayso: The Next Generation will look roughly like what they saw Thursday — including a dinosaur, a volcano, climbing walls and the return of the Viking ship.

The new park will also retain the wall of hands, the ceramic-cast handprints of the children who built Valplayso 20 years ago.

Some of those now-grown children were in the audience with their children.

Children involved in the renovation will not have their handprints preserved but instead have their likenesses etched by laser onto plates that include QR code squares that those with smartphones can scan.

The smartphones would then connect to a website with interviews of the kids.

The new playground would be accessible to the handicapped and divided into a fenced-in tot park and an older kids’ park with a parents’ sitting section in the middle.

The playground itself will be somewhat flipped from its exisisting layout, with the equipment where the shelters are, Seibert said.

The next steps are raising the money for the project and organizing volunteers, including the children’s committee.

Holman said the project will require 80 to 100 volunteers working in three shifts from a Wednesday to Sunday in October, which will be the 20th anniversary of constructing the current Valplayso. Last time, 2,600 volunteered.

Volunteers will remove the existing playground starting in August.

Seibert said the Park Board will discuss nonplayground changes in the park, such as replacing the shelters, at its Feb. 25 meeting.



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