ST. ALBANS — Brand new, colorful playground equipment off the corner of Mason Corner Road and Route 152 represents more than recreation for kids throughout the region.

It also represents what a community can accomplish when it comes together, say local officials and parents.

Last Friday through Sunday, volunteers assembled the new St. Albans Community Playground, a concept that’s been two years in the making for this town of about 1,800 people. It’s expected to be ready for children later this month, just before the start of school, after fencing is installed and wood chips are spread around.

Among those working day-long all three days was Amy Madigan-Dube, a parent and chairman of the St. Albans Recreation Committee.

“It went great; I think it was a very good thing for our community to get together and do something collectively, to do something positive,” said Madigan-Dube, whose children are 4 and 7. “I’d say 99.9 percent of the reaction (to the playground) has been positive. People are excited — even people who don’t have children are excited to see something like this in the community.”

About 40 volunteers helped out during the three-day period, some working 10- or 11-hour days, as the equipment was installed under the supervision of New England Recreation Group of Northboro, Mass., which supplied the playground.

Jason Scholten, a resident and member of the school parent-teacher organization, said he enjoyed working on the playground because he has two children, ages 6 and 7.

“It’s just great to see so many people turn out and get a job like that done,” Scholten said. “Before I left that morning my kids found out what I was doing and they said I was the best dad ever. That made me feel really good. We’ve needed a playground for quite a while.”

The playground equipment cost $34,750 and the total cost is expected to be about $42,000 when other materials are factored in, according to Town Manager Rhonda Stark. The project has been paid for through a $25,000 state land and water conservation grant, volunteer labor, donated materials and money, Stark said.

There have been almost too many donations to keep track of, Stark said. For instance, Snowman’s Construction Inc. of St. Albans volunteered time and equipment to build a new retaining wall, while several other local companies and citizens offered their time and equipment.

Poland Spring chipped in $1,000 and 10 cases of its water for volunteers to drink during the three days of work, Stark said. Volunteers ranged from local businessmen to town residents and summer homeowners.

“We had so many donations. It’s great,” Stark said. “From the businesses, they just came right through and the project volunteers for the weekend. People started asking quite a few months ago about helping. It was a good community project in that we have people who live right here in town that didn’t really know each other, and they got to meet.”

The new playground area includes two sections — one for 2- to 5-year-olds and another for kids up to age 12, and includes features such as slides, a climber, tunnels, ladders, poles and more.

Stark said when she arrived as town manager in 2009, she identified the need for improvements to the C.A. Batchelder Memorial Playground, which featured three swings and an old, small steel climbing structure amid a large empty expanse of grass and cracked pavement. The land used to be the site of the town’s old elementary school, built in the 1940s, and the playground structures were installed in 1995 with used pieces of equipment.

The town soon formed a recreation committee and the first project its members identified was building a new playground, Madigan-Dube said.

“We have been working on it for two years or more, because we had only a limited playground in the area,” she said. “There’s over 100 kids in pre-K through grade 4 in St. Albans. We recreated this committee to figure out what opportunities there are in this community.”

That’s why the playground could just be the beginning. Town officials also envision future projects, including a walking track around the playground structure with strengthening stations and renovating the nearby basketball court, according to Stark.

Madigan-Dube would also like to see the return of an outdoor skating rink, which the town used to have when she was a child.

But all those plans will depend on fundraising and volunteerism, just like the playground, she said.

“This is just the first phase in a larger plan we all have in our minds. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, because everything we want to do will need a lot of fundraising,” Madigan-Dube said. “It will all cost a great deal. The economy’s difficult right now, so this took a little longer than I had hoped, but that’s the nature of fundraising.”

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]

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