VIRGINIA — Parks and Recreation utility employee Andrew Judnick was particularly proud of the department’s work last week. “Today is all about the kids,” he said while accomplishing the day’s labor.
Judnick was among eight Virginia city workers who installed new playground equipment for six hours last Tuesday at the Virginia Housing and Redevelopment’s Pine Mill Court.
“Kids lined up throughout the day to watch us,” said Brian Silber, parks and recreation director. “They asked us when they could start playing on it. There were many excited kids.”
The playground was open to the youngsters a few days later.
The 110-unit, one- to four-bedroom public housing complex is currently home to about 60 children ages 2 to 12, said Virginia HRA Director Dana Hiltunen.
Pine Mill Court also houses the on-site Milestones Daycare Center, an infant through school-age program with a capacity of 51 children. The center has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, said Randali Watson, community connection coordinator at Milestones. The day care serves both children who live at the complex and in the greater community.
She noted that the day care staff are limiting the number of kids allowed to play at a time given health concerns surrounding COVID-19.
The Pine Mill playground had not been updated since the 1990s, and the equipment is sparse and aged, “especially for the amount of kids” who use the play area, Silber said. The equipment was kept in place, including a swing set and spring rockers.
The new playground equipment, manufactured by Midwest Playscapes of Savage, Minn., offers both physical and cognitive aspects, Silber said. It includes monkey bars, a climbing wall, and several slides. It also contains a scavenger hunt component, in which children find various symbols such as frog, fish and butterfly within the structure.
The $30,000-plus project, Silber said, was budgeted by the city and also funded through “generous contributions” from the Virginia Community Foundation and Virginia Lakes and Community Beautification Committee.
“In an effort to save money, we didn’t hire the playground manufacturer to install it,” he said. “We did it ourselves so more of the money could be put into the equipment to benefit kids for years to come.”
Workers also placed recycled wood fiber around the structure as safety material.
Silber said he drove by the playground on a subsequent day and observed many youngsters climbing, sliding and swinging on the new equipment.
“We are very grateful to the city” and contributors, Watson said. “It’s a beautiful addition. The kids (at Milestones) have massively enjoyed it already.”
Children who live at the complex can easily walk to the playground. “It will be used a lot,” she said.
“It was nice to get out of the office and do some hands-on work,” especially knowing the effort would “have a positive impact on our community,” Silber added.