A lot of the reason why we chose the house we did was the park.
There is a lot of open green hilly space just over our fence and the pool makes good people watching from our deck.
And just around the bend, just past the neighbor’s house and down a walkway is a playground.
I grew up diving onto the playground equipment for a quick ride as I walked with my mom around the neighborhood. Since playgrounds are scarce in our neck of the woods, it was important to me to have a local one I could walk to.
A minute’s walk is perfect some days.
However, even though Wonder Boy enjoys it, it really isn’t that good.
And most of the neighborhood kids don’t use it. Almost every time we go we are alone.
Why? Oh, there’s a few reasons.
First, there’s no stairs. I spent months picking up my son and putting him at the slide level because there were only ladders,
Second, all you can do it ride two slides, play with a tic-tac-toe board and go across the monkey bars. Which is better than nothing, but some kids that enjoy the slides cannot even reach the monkey bars or struggle to climb the ladder alone.
Another reason it’s left alone?
Probably because older kids have trashed it. Melted holes in the tube slide and the roller tic-tac-toe. Tagged it, cracked it and left gross brown stuff on the top of it that is reminiscent of, well, gross brown stuff.
So when I moved in and saw the state of the playground presently, along with my work trying to secure a playmate I asked people about if they were interested in getting improved equipment.
I went to the homeowners meetings full of passion and nervous (I’m shy and non-pressing that way). I was a welcome addition because I am the ONLY non-board member at these meetings.
Seriously. In a community of about ten blocks no one cares to go to the meetings or thinks they’re all crooked and avoids them.
So after several months of asking, giving examples and pressing the gentleman who thought it was fine the way it because ‘no one used it’ I finally got the chance to make a committee and make a new playground plan.
This task had been started before, in 2008, and was abandoned after two plans were drawn up. No one could tell me why they quit.
For weeks I left notes on doors, tried to connect with anyone with kids at the playground (since there are hardly any playgrounds accessible in my city many people hike to go there) and got left with no-returned phone messages, non-opened doors and non-eye contact.
It took several months and me sitting with old paperwork frustrated because no one seemed to care enough to help. I ended up missing homeowners meetings due to lack of progress, all the time watching the pool furniture still remain unreplaced and the signs still deliberated over.
I finally, finally connected with two ladies on my street who were willing to help give opinions only if they did not have to attend meetings.
So, with a kind-of committee of three we talked about what we’d like to see and I connected with the same company who did the first set.
Who came out and drew some awesome plans.
The night I was supposed to give the plans to the homeowner’s association for discussion I had something happen and I was unable to attend the meeting. meaning my playground was pushed back another month.
So I’ve gone back and forth with the rep from the equipment company since then, fine-tuning plans and picking out a color scheme.
And it will, hopefully be amazing, brought up to code with several options including ground-level play and with whatever color scheme I pick out, because the same ladies who offered me help did not meet me to go over the plans I received.
I’ve been so glad of the support of my family and friends, impressed that I am planning out a playground all by myself.
But instead of empowered I feel like a black sheep. Why does no one care about the playground and do they avoid me because I am trying to change it?
And when it’s finally in, will any of my neighbors congratulate me or will they stand around trashing the design and complaining about the homeowners association and their horrible ways?
Will they miss the darn monkey bars?
It’s been such a struggle for me. I am a follower, a supporter, a cheerleader and a friend. I do not lead the charge well, starting strong but fading out quickly as the struggle continues.
But I don’t do it, obviously no one will. And the one suffering would be Wonder Boy.
But even though I will probably end up unsupported by my neighbors, I try to think about the kids who will have more reasons to stay and play. I think about how nice new bright colors will look instead of the tan and green, fading into the grass and bark.
I try to think of other little children who will be able to climb the stairs themselves and go down the slide, happy in their accomplishment, while their mothers sit on the bench and enjoy a few minutes of freedom from little hands and needs.
Which is what I want to do too.
So tell me, what have you worked on to improve your neighborhood? And if you have a homeowner’s association, does anyone even go?