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In five days they built Rainbow City.

RAINBOW CITY WAS built in five days by a beehive's worth of volunteer workers in all sizes. More than 3,700 community members helped construct the 10,000-square-foot playground, which rises from the northeast corner of Community Park in Davis, California.

The distinctive pointed spires, elevated walkways, ramps, swinging bridges, secret halls, and tile-covered walls seemed to grow right before the eyes of their principal designers--the town's elementary school children.

A year of organizing, designing, and inspired fund-raising preceded the well-orchestrated construction days. The project involved volunteers from a wide cross-section of the entire community: city government, the chamber of commerce, local businesses, interested citizens, parents, teachers, and the children. The dedicated workers successfully raised almost $110,000 and created a play structure that would have cost more than $300,000 if built privately.

To make the project flow smoothly, the organizing group of parents hired architect Robert Leathers of Ithaca, New York, who has helped hundreds of communities develop plans and organize to build playgrounds. His $13,000 fee covered consultations on a design day and an organization day, plans, two consultants for the five days of construction, and such informational material as step-by-step directions.

Although the parkland belongs to the city of Davis, the local chamber of commerce sponsored Project Playpark during the planning and construction phases. This permitted the project to gain nonprofit status and obtain liability insurance.

To allow Project Playpark to become eligible for discounts on building materials, to provide a source of experienced craftsmen, and to ease the stockpiling and moving of mountains of needed supplies, a local construction firm was designated as supervising contractor.

Turning design dreams

into reality

On Design Day, a member of Leather's firm met with youngsters ages 6 through 11, listened to their ideas, and reviewed their drawings.

After distilling the children's ideas, the firm presented a plan that included the best suggestions from these would-be playground architects: a monster maze, mirrors in a tunnel, a labyrinth, twisty slides, sliding poles, a shaky bridge, a tunnel of tires, dinosaur swings, a giant beehive, a pirate spaceship, balance beams, and a train with a steering wheel. A wheelchair access area was also included.

Inventive fund-raising

Almost half of the money raised came from corporations. Through a program called A Piece of the Park, more than 70 businesses became equipment sponsors by buying key elements--swings, sliding poles, benches, tires, chin-up bars, picnic tables.

On a smaller scale, the Buy a Board fund-raiser gave individual donors a chance to purchase a board ($5), a step ($12), or a platform ($120).

One goal of the year-long fund drive was to make giving money as entertaining and painless as possible. Fun runs, honey sales, tricycle races, T-shirt sales, a Halloween carnival, garage sales, barbecues, square dances, and a Christmas ball proved successful.

In a delightfully corrupt race for honorary mayor, each candidate "bought" votes from his potential constituents; a real estate agent guaranteed his election by raising $3,500. A Pennies From Heaven contest drew schools into a spirited penny-collecting competition. Also, 300 children designed and sold wall tiles at $25 apiece.

Construction days

As the building days approached, supplies--mainly vast stockpiles of pressure-treated Southern yellow pine--were brought to the site, and 6,000 job shifts were assigned. Safe jobs for children included scrubbing tires and sanding wood. Heavy construction was left to the adults, with supervision by experienced carpenters. Restaurants donated food for all the workers.

Day One achieved the positioning of 180 telephone poles in holes dug by crews from the telephone and power companies. The concrete had set by the next morning, when volunteers reported for duty.

Over the next four days, so many people showed up to help that the project could have been finished a day ahead of schedule. Instead--to give everyone a chance to participate--construction came to resemble an old-fashioned barn raising: people sanded wood by hand instead of using belt sanders, and a bucket brigade replaced a tractor to move in some of the 275 tons of beach sand that covers the ground.

When construction was completed, the fund-raisers found they had exceeded their goal by 21,000. The bonus was used to buy and install a lighting system.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:playground
Author:Whiteley, Peter O.
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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