Recess about to get more fun at Aspen Elementary School | AspenTimes.com

Recess about to get more fun at Aspen Elementary School

ASPEN – After years of talk and months of negotiations, bids and fundraising, Aspen Elementary School kids are just weeks away from spending recess on a brand-new playground.

“We are almost there,” said parent Lynne Seeman, who has led the charge for the new playground along with fellow PTO member Stacey Greene. “This is the final push.”

The “final push” is both figurative and literal.

Seeman and Greene hope hundreds will turn out Sunday for the second annual AES Run for Funds to benefit the playground. A 5K run and one-mile family walk (with a barbecue to follow), the event’s aim is to raise money for the playground wish list, as well as raise awareness.

“Last year’s race was great, with everyone coming together to support the playground,” Greene noted, adding that last year’s race and associated fundraising efforts netted some $60,000. “This year, we are trying to raise money but also celebrate the fact that we’re so close to being done.”

Also coming up, on Sunday, Sept. 25, is a work day, when the community can actually help “build” the playground – “with some guidance from the design and construction team, of course.”

“It’s been a long and involved process,” Seeman said. “So it will be really wonderful to be hands-on, to actually help make all the hard work become a reality.”

The effort to get a new playground for Aspen Elementary was not easy.

Though most agreed the old playground was outdated (it hadn’t been updated or improved in 14 years), poorly designed for drainage (the city of Aspen had to stop holding soccer games there a few years back because of the mud and muck) and was simply in need of a complete overhaul, tightening school budgets and the recession made it difficult to find the money to complete the project – on a small or large scale.

In the end, there was compromise, with the Aspen School District paying part of the bill – the Board of Education approved spending $650,000 toward the project last spring – and parents raising the remainder.

At that meeting, the school playground committee said its ultimate wish list came with a price tag of $1.15 million, but said it would take $557,000 to make the playground safe and usable.

Much of the planning and work toward the playground has been donated. For example, volunteers will staff the race, and lunch for Sunday’s work day is being donated by local parents Julia and Allen Domingos, who have a catering company. Plus, local landscape architect and parent Gyles Thornely designed the playground free of charge, while much of the material, labor and such was offered at cost.

“We could never have done so much to make this playground what it is without all these donations,” Seeman said, noting that while not everything on the wish list will be a reality now, organizers are hopeful future donations will add to the amenities. “The reality is, the kids are going to be so, so happy with their new playground.”

Of course they will have to wait a little bit. Though the landscaping and equipment will be in place after the work day, there will be a no trespassing policy until the seed has time to take root. After years of waiting, though, it’s a small price to pay.

“So close. We’re so close. And that’s a great feeling,” Seeman and Greene agreed.

The AES Run for Funds begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at Lower Moore Field. The cost is $25 ($15 younger than 18) or $50 for a family of up to five people. Pre-register Saturday at Peach’s and also online at http://www.aesrunforfunds.org. For more information, call Lynne Seeman at 948-4975.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com