Aspen Times Weekly: Today, We Play! |

Aspen Times Weekly: Today, We Play!

by Jeanne McGovern

By the Numbers

The BES playground was a collaborative effort between the town of Basalt, the Basalt Education Foundation, the Roaring Fork School District and others. The town of Basalt and the Holy Cross Energy Community Enhancement Fund each gave $46,250 toward playground equipment; community members and businesses donated time, equipment and more.

The AES playground was also a collaborative, community effort. Funding for the project came from the Aspen School District, PTO fundraising, as well as community and business donations of time, equipment and more.

For more information on how to support the Aspen or Basalt schools, visit or

LISTEN TO THE SOUNDS: Laughter and giggles; screaming and maybe even screeching; a few whispers and the occasional whistle. These are sounds that say more than words ever will. Look at the scene: kids — lots and lots of kids — swinging and sliding, running and jumping, crawling and creating. This is a scene that reminds us of what it’s like to be a kid. Look at the landscape: green grass and wood chips below, blue skies and white clouds above. This is a landscape fit for a postcard. For kids in Aspen and Basalt, these sounds, this scene and that landscape are just a part of recess — a treasured slice of every kid’s school day. But making it become a reality is far from monkey business.

“THANK YOU, MISS WHEELER. Thank you, Miss Wheeler.” Four words — repeated over and over — that Basalt Elementary School principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo says she now hears every day.

The reason, on the surface, seems simple: monkey bars, spinning things, a massive spider-web dome. And to the kids who swing, spin and climb on them, it is that simple. Which is as it should be.

“I think it’s tremendously important because, first of all, children need to play — kids need curious and creative play,” says Wheeler-Del Piccolo.

“our priority is the kids. we are
willing to invest in a plan that makes
sense for our students now —
and in the long run.”
– john maloy, aspen superintendent
BES principal

But how this state-of-the-art playground became a reality for Basalt Elementary School (and the entire community, which is welcome to use it at any time) is anything but simple. In fact, it took a great amount of effort — and collaboration — between the town of Basalt, parents, students, the community and so many others.

“It is a very powerful story,” says Wheeler-Del Piccolo, explaining how the school’s first effort toward a major grant to fund project was ultimately denied. “But that didn’t stop the process.”

Rather, it fueled the fire — bringing others into the fold. Even the youngest of students; Wheeler-Del Piccolo tells the story of a kindergartner, who wasn’t even part of the original playground-planning process, who told her, “I wrote a letter, and it worked!”

Indeed, these are the lessons that should be learned. The dollars and cents are important (see “By The Numbers,” previous page), but the bottom line is the kids.

“Our priority is the kids,” said Dr. John Maloy, Aspen School District Superintendent, when Aspen Elementary School sought to reconstruct its playground a couple of years ago. “We are willing to invest in a plan that makes sense for our students now — and in the long run.”

Fortunately, for both Aspen and Basalt, these philosophies seem to be paying off. New playgrounds are opened and there are plenty of giggles, running feet and creative playthings to be found.

And while it may be cliche, there are times when a picture is worth a thousand words. This is one of those times.