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Army Corps volunteers make Clayton playground project a reality (VIDEO)

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CLAYTON — The Wooden Castle Playground — a mecca for adventurous youngsters — is getting a major facelift by volunteers from the Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Drum.

On Friday, about two dozen volunteers from the Army Corps joined three village Department of Public Works employees to start tearing down the massive wooden structure at Village Square Park, using tools to rip out rotted planks. After the demolition phase of the project is done this weekend, volunteers will finish rebuilding the playground by the end of next week, Staff Sgt. Eric M. Earley said. The Army Corps engineer is leading the project with two other staff sergeants who belong to his Fort Drum brigade.

The village, which had limited funding to complete the project, found much-neededed assistance from the Fort Drum volunteers. Sgt. Earley said the group has always taken pride in volunteering for community projects, and there is never a shortage of volunteers.

“This is kind of in line with our normal mission,” he said Friday, adding that village residents also have volunteered. “We have local citizens coming out here and saying they are going to be helping out, and businesses are going to be donating lunches.”

Along with its upgraded wooden structure, the rebuilt playground will feature a new play area for young children, Sgt. Earley said. Slides will be replaced, and the ground cover will be dug up and replaced with 12 inches of Fibar mulch, which is designed for playgrounds.

A Bobcat loader was donated by Thousand Islands Property Service of Clayton to complete that job.

With its play area for young children, Sgt. Earley said, the rebuilt playground will provide an even more popular destination for families.

“The biggest area is going to be the tot area,” he said. “It will allow families whose kids are spread out in age to come here. Parents will be able to watch their young ones while the older kids play.”

The project was funded with donations raised in the village community. Pitching in help to cover the $8,000 cost of lumber was Watertown resident Richard Alexander, who donated $3,000. Covering the remainder of the cost were the Chamber of Commerce, which gave $1,000, and Colon-Couch American Legion Post 821, with $4,000. Tools and equipment used by volunteers were provided by the village and Clayton Recreation Park.

Village DPW Superintendent Terry M. Jones said that the project would still be on hold without the manpower provided by Army Corps volunteers. The volunteers will be assisted during construction by Leathers & Associates of Ithaca, which designed the playground. The firm also designed the original structure built in 1987, Mr. Jones said.

He said the rehabilitation project will be completed much faster than the original construction, which took more than a month.

“We have about 30 volunteers for this project, and they can do this much quicker,” Mr. Jones said, adding that families will eagerly await the project’s completion. “You can come down on any weekend and see this place packed.”

First Sgt. Christopher H. Hicks, who lives in Clayton, said the Amy Corps of Engineers decided to get involved after he found out about the project during a chance encounter in June with David H. Neuroth, president of the Clayton Rotary Club.

“I ran into him at Kinney Drugs, and we got to talking about the project when he found out I was an engineer,” Sgt. Hicks said. “I told him I could get volunteers from the battalion to do this project.”

Sgt. Hicks, who lives next to the village park, said volunteers are enthusiastic about the project because they know it’s making a meaningful impact in the community.

“Every time I come down here there are kids playing,” he said.

Video of volunteers working Friday at the playground can be viewed at http://wdt.me/Playground-Project.

Clayton Playground Project
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