CRANBERRY TWP — A new era for Cranberry Township’s Community Park got off to a cold but enthusiastic start Saturday morning when a group of children gathered with more than 100 runners to break ground on the Kids Castle Playground.
The crowd braved chilly temperatures and late April snow showers to ceremoniously kick off the $495,000 project to replace the existing Playtime Palace playground with the new, state-of-the-art children’s recreational area.
“Realize you are having a huge impact on our community,” Cranberry Township Supervisor Mike Manipole told the crowd. “Each and every one of you gathered today should realize that you are creating a memory that will last for decades around here.”
After the short ceremony, playground organizers held a 5K race and 1-mile fun walk to help raise money for the project.
In addition to the groundbreaking and the races, Saturday marked the unveiling of the ‘TODAY’ section, a portion of the playground whose design is based on the drawings of 3,500 local students.
Disassembly of the 22-year-old wooden play structure began Monday and was expected to take a couple of days. Volunteers from Westinghouse and Alcoa planned to do most of the removal work.
The old playground has to be removed to allow for site work to begin. Construction on the playground will begin later this summer. Among the improvements to the site is the installation of new bathrooms.
Though the old playground will be gone, as much as 70 percent of the wood from Playtime Palace will be pressure washed and restained by volunteers for use in the new play area.
This week’s volunteer effort is just the beginning of the community’s involvement in the project, said township Supervisor Bruce Mazzoni, project co-chairman.
“I anticipate a lot more happening with the playground,” he said Saturday. “Of course, this project doesn’t stop with the groundbreaking today. We have a lot of need for volunteers. We have a lot of other needs. We are very excited.”
The Cranberry Township Community Chest made the playground its 2013 Community Project of the Year and is the driving force behind the fundraising campaign, which so far has netted more than $300,000.
Altogether, more than 5,000 residents and business employees will be involved in building the new playground.
The project should sound familiar to longtime township residents. Twenty-three years ago, community organizers used a similar formula to build Playtime Palace.
More than 800 people labored in shifts during three days to build the old playground, which opened in 1990.
The parallel is not lost on township manager Jerry Andre.
“This is a demonstration of the greatness of our community, the great leaders we have and our wonderful businesses,” he said Saturday. “It’s just a collaborative effort.
“The original Playtime Palace was indicative of the community back then, and what we are seeing now is just a reflection of the continuation of that community spirit Cranberry is noted for.”