In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 4:21 PM on Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Community works together to build playground

In our own Backyard

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Nathan Overson cuts the ribbon — a paper chain made by children whose parents volunteered with HoPP, the Homer Playlground Project — officially opening the playground on Sunday evening. Looking on are Homer Mayor James Hornaday and HoPP coordinators Miranda Weiss and Deb Cox.

After little more than a year of planning, fundraising and lots of hard work, HoPP, the Homer Playground Project, has completed — almost — what it set out to do: create a fun, safe playground for youngsters.

With Deb Cox and Miranda Weiss leading the way, the project drew ideas from youngsters, parents, business and community leaders. Those were used by Play By Design, a New York company specializing in community-built playgrounds and having experience in other Alaska communities, to create a made-to-fit, one-of-a-kind playground at the Karen A. Hornaday Hillside Park.

From May 20 through May 27, more than 585 volunteers — plus Dave Ianello and Lee Archin of Play By Design — rolled up their sleeves and set to work, filling three shifts a day and making the project become a reality. Others provided equipment, tools, materials, child care and food. Most of the volunteers were from Homer and the surrounding area, but not all.

"I ran into guys from Germany, Anchorage, someone from Florida. There were people from all over the place. ... Someone said you couldn't pass a single majority issue with that group, but they were working together," said Homer Mayor James Hornaday, recalling a similar effort in 1997. "The original playground equipment was built about 15 years ago. It was done in one day and Bonnie Jason coordinated that."

Although not in Homer for build week, Robert Archibald, chair of the city's Karen Hornaday Park Committee, appreciated the efforts of volunteers.

"Miranda, Deb, that whole crew have done an amazing job of planning. From a committee standpoint, we know what kind of work they put into it, but I think there was a lot more work than people realized. Goes to show you what Homer will do when a project like that comes up," said Archibald, who works for Crowley Maritime out of Valdez.

Asked how the Homer project compared to others they have done, Ianello said, "(It's) over the top. The level of detail is exceptional, and the natural play elements are so well done, very complimentary to the design overall. The playground is a perfect aesthetic with the natural surroundings, and the setting is beyond a doubt the most beautiful site for a playground we have ever seen in our over 25 years of being in the business."

Weiss and Cox are marveling at what a community working together accomplished.

"(Sunday) was amazing," said Weiss of the official opening of the playground. "One minute there were people raking and 10 minutes later there were kids in the playground, hundreds of kids."

Weiss and Cox praised the volunteers and the level of support the project received.

"Our team captains were there all day, every day. I want to hug them all, do something for them. I'm in love with all of them," said Cox, laughing. To the community, she added, "Thanks, Homer. I was happy to be involved."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at