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Army Corps engineers and community donations to reconstruct Clayton playground

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CLAYTON — The Wooden Castle Playground will be rebuilt thanks to donations from the community and volunteer labor from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“When someone tells me we have guys for you who are willing to build our playground, it’s a good time to get this project going,” said David H. Neuroth, president of the Clayton Rotary Club.

Mr. Neuroth said the village, along with Army Corps of Engineers volunteers, plan to rebuild and restore the 25-year-old playground at Village Square Park, Mary and John streets.

“It’s so incredible for them to work side by side with people in the community,” Mr. Neuroth said, noting the park originally was built by a group of volunteers.

The project will be funded through donations raised by community members and matched by local organizations. To help pay for the $8,000 in lumber needed to reconstruct the park, Mr. Neuroth said, Watertown resident Richard Alexander pledged to match any funds donated up to $3,000. The Chamber of Commerce provided an additional $1,000 for a one-to-one match. Colon-Couch American Legion Post 821 matched its combined donation by giving $4,000 on March 20.

Mr. Neuroth said the village needs to replace the aging wood planks that have become “rotted and rough” over 25 years. The engineers will replace the playground, board by board, until it looks almost like it did when the park opened.

Mr. Neuroth said the newly formed Castle Playground Restoration Committee will organize fundraisers to purchase materials for subsequent projects. Further projects include new swing sets, new mulch for the playground, a wrought-iron fence to surround the park and a play center for small children.

The village initially sought grant funding to reconstruct the playground. Mr. Neuroth said the village was denied a $200,000 grant for four consecutive years. After the grant applications were denied, the village decided to use the skeleton of the park and work around it using the original plans and layout. That way, he said, the park’s reconstruction would be much more affordable.

1st Sgt. Christopher H. Hicks said his company became involved in the project by a chance meeting with Mr. Neuroth, at which he mentioned the Rotary’s intent to fix the park. “I told him I am an engineer and I have a company of engineers,” Sgt. Hicks said. “My guys are really excited to do this.”

Sgt. Hicks said his company of about 60 engineers will work at various times on the playground. He said additional volunteers could join the project.

The engineers have volunteered their services throughout the north country to help the Watertown Urban Mission, coach local sports teams and work with Habitat for Humanity. Overseas, Sgt. Hicks said, the engineers often work on widely varying projects such as operating heavy equipment, clearing routes of explosive devices in Iraq and building roads and schools in Afghanistan.

On this project, Sgt. Hicks said, site managers Staff Sgt. George E. Williams and Staff Sgt. Eric M. Earley will draft construction plans for him to approve, after which construction can begin. During the reconstruction work, the village will assign one of its maintenance employees to be on site to help the crews.

Mr. Neuroth said work is scheduled to begin as early as May and likely will take a month or two, depending on how many people volunteer for the project. Sgt. Hicks said about 20 people will work two or three days each week and a much larger crew will be available on weekends.

Donations can be made to the village of Clayton and dropped off at the Clayton Municipal Building. Money collected will be placed in a special account to fund the renovation and a training project by the 10th Mountain Division Army Corps of Engineers.

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