Benton Hall Academy Principal Joe Long reflected on Friday how he felt when he heard the school’s playground needed to be torn down a year and a half ago.
“The old playground had to be taken down right away, much to the sadness of 500 kids and me,” he said. “I really did feel like the Grinch that day. But then Mr. [Little Falls City School District Superintendent Louis] Patrei told me that feeling would go away when I stood in front of a new playground.”
On Friday, Long said Patrei’s prediction came true as he was able to officially dedicate the new playground in front of the whole school, who assembled outside by the playground on a sunny, fall day. Long and other school officials thanked the many donors who made the new playground possible for the children of Little Falls.
Long said it was school district Business Manager Clete McLaughlin who asked to take on the task of raising funds for the new playground.
“He made it his personal mission,” said Long.
McLaughlin succeeded with raising about $2,000 more in donations then the goal that was set. He said the official total amount of money raised was $126,746.05.
“That’s how much our community gave to us,” said McLaughlin, who also named the many businesses and organizations who donated to make it possible.
In April 2011, after a routine safety inspection, the wooden playground structure was found to have serious safety issues. The structural integrity of the playground equipment had been compromised by rotting wood just below the ground surface. So the district decided to take it down.
The new playground was designed by Craig Boyko, of Grounds for Play, a design consultant agency from Ballston Spa. The new playground has multiple platforms of varying heights, five slides, eight distinctive climbing opportunities, nine interactive play panels, a separate free standing track glide and a two bay swing set with four seat swings. The posts supporting the new play structure made of fiberglass reinforced polymer.
McLaughlin said Boyko is also helping to design a kindergarten playground outside of the kindergarten classrooms.
“You have an entire community that loves you and cares about you and always remember that,” said Patrei. “Enjoy it, and have fun out there, and respect it.”
McLaughlin said there is a book Boyko put together about the history of the playground. He said it’s at the end of the book that he saw a statement that he feels is appropriate: “May the playground bring hours of happiness to the children of Little Falls now and for years to come.”
“Best of all, it was giving kids a new playground,” said Long about the efforts that went into making the playground a reality. “It was quiet out here for way too long.”