Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:18 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On your mark, get set ... Build



Photo by Michael Armstrong

A chalk sign at Karen Hornaday Park encourages people to sign up for the Homer Playground Project Build Week May 20-27.

A big banner for the Homer Playground Project, or HoPP, on the fence at the corner of Lake Street and Pioneer Avenue counts down the days. Three, two, one — blast-off. Starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, the seven-day Homer build-a-thon begins at Karen Hornaday Park.

On Monday, HoPP organizers Miranda Weiss and Deb Cox toured the site for the new playground on a bench of land above the Little League baseball fields. The old playground equipment, well used, well loved and well worn, had been torn down. What could be salvaged was donated to groups like Fireweed Academy. A flat pad of sand was ready to be leveled and covered with wood chips — officially, engineered wood fiber milled for playground padding. This week, excavators started boring 200 holes for playground posts.

In an old city shed, retired contractor David Collett-Paule set up pallets and shelves to store boxes of screws and bolts — the thousands of pieces of hardware and supplies to hold together the equipment.


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Miranda Weiss, one of the organizers of the Homer Playground Project, takes a phone call on Monday.

Collett-Paule is one of 10 build team captains who will supervise crews.

Owner of Criterion General Contracting, like most of the build team captains he's way overqualified, Cox said.

HoPP is funded by $200,000 in grants and donations, including $50,000 from the city of Homer. A sale of 437 inscribed pickets for a fence raised $20,000.

How do you build a playground in eight days? How do you provided 1,300 meals? How do you take care of the children of cooks and carpenters? HoPP works on a variation of the "Field of Dreams" motto. Ask for it to be built and they will come.

Volunteers not only can come and drive screws, but they can cook and do child care. People can make meals ahead of time, with Coal Point Seafoods donating freeze space. Donations for everything from duct tape to cups are needed. (For how to help, see box, page 1.)

Homer Playground Project (HoPP) Build Week

May 20-27

Karen Hornaday Park

How to help:

• Build: Sign up for one or both shifts 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20; Monday, May 21; Saturday, May 26; Sunday, May 27. No building skills needed. Food and child care is provided during shifts.

• Take care of kids: Child care helpers are needed during build shifts. Child care is at Community Christian Church. To volunteer, call Jane Nollar at 299-0769 or jnollar72@alaska.net or Kristen Wright Cook at 399-2431 or kristennicolew@yahoo.com.

• Feed volunteers: Help prepare meals, set up and take down meals, and pick up donated meals. Donate fish or food. Donate prepared dishes. Contact Kate Crowley at 399-4406 or katepcrowley@gmail.com.

• Donate useful items: Items needed include everything from ice to gravel to duct tape to paper cups. Contact Miranda Weiss at 299-5550 or mirandaweiss@gmail.com.

• Create a Build Week Work Team: Form a team from work, neighborhoods, civic organizations, families or friends. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old to be on the build site and at least 18 years old to use power tools. Contact Bekah Pearson at 299-3920 or bekahgpearson@gmail.com.

• For more information, visit www.homerplaygroundproject.org.

"Nobody is going to be turned away," Weiss said.

One build captain, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Ferrell, is camping on the site during Build Week. Ferrell had such a blast helping on the Soldotna playground project that he volunteered for HoPP. He's rounded up some friends from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage to come help, and people like Ocean Shores Motel have donated rooms for visiting volunteers.

HoPP organizers also have rounded up dozens of prizes from massages to bear viewing trips to reward volunteers. For each 4.5-hour shift worked, volunteers get a chance at prize drawings. The number of businesses and volunteers who have donated good and services already has become daunting.

"It would be super hard to list all the incredible number of people who have already helped," Cox said.

HoPP isn't the first — or even the second — community playground project. A similar effort in the early 1990s built the previous playground at Karen Hornaday Park. In 1947, about 150 volunteers cleared a play field next to the old school at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and the Sterling Highway near where the Homer Education and Recreation Complex now stands.

"I know us kids all went there and had a blast supposedly helping," said Ray Kranich, then age 7. "It was a community thing. It accomplished a whole bunch."

Joanne Edens, whose husband Brantley Edens has photos of the project in his book, "A Better Life," was 14 then and remembered it as quite a project. Edens family photos show a blackboard with an organizational chart filled with names, a group photo of workers on bulldozers and a photo of women in the kitchen.

"The community just got together, took out the stumps and leveled out the playground, the ground behind the school," she said.

The last shift ends at 5:30 p.m. next Sunday, May 27. Following that will be a celebration — and the thank you to the town for building a playground for another generation.

"The thank you is that here is a wonderful playground for our town," Cox said. "It's too big. It's too awesome."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.