WARRENSBURG - In the mid-1980s, dozens of volunteers of all ages collaborated over several weekends to build the Warrensburg Creative Playground on the town recreation fields off Sanford St.
Featuring mazes, forts, swings and bridges, it captivated the public's imagination. For a generation of Warrensburg's children, the playground provided a place to spark the imagination and gain exercise.
But through the years, it deteriorated, was repeatedly vandalized, and became a hangout at night for wayward teens.
Even the timbers it was created from, treated with an arsenic compound to resist weathering, were reclassified as hazardous - potentially carcinogenic.
But now, a new playground is destined to raise from the remains of this old one.
The town of Warrensburg was awarded a $62,500 grant recently from the state Environmental Protection Fund to build a new playground.
The grant, announced at the June town board meeting, is enough to pay for two playground structures, one for pre-school age youngsters, and the other for older children, according to Warrensburg Bookkeeper Patty Monahan, who drafted the grant application.
The grant also pays to update the existing rest rooms, so they are accessible to people with physical challenges. The matching grant pays for the equipment and materials, while the town will be contributing the time of its employees to build it, Monahan said.
The playground amenities will be designed to accommodate a wish-list drafted by local elementary school children and their parents. A survey was circulated last year among students as to what they wanted in a playground, and the new equipment will be designed around their preferences, Monahan said.
"The kids said they wanted a larger slide, a fort, swings. spring rockers, tire swings, a net climber, a bouncing bridge and balance beams, so that's what we'll be looking to have built," Monahan said.
The playground will also have standard swing sets, heavy duty, with cushioned safety matting below, she said.
The playground should be ready for children sometime next year, Monahan said.
"Hopefully we can get this up and going soon so the kids of the town can enjoy it," she said.
Supervisor Kevin Geraghty also said the new playground, when complete, will offer a safe, challenging and fun place for children to play.
"I'm happy the original creative playground served its purpose, and now this grant enables us to build a new playground at a reasonable cost," he said. "We are very happy to receive the award, because the grant process was extremely competitive."
A memo from the state announcing the award noted that there were over 300 applications for similar grants from the Environmental Protection Fund, and only a fraction of the requests were granted.