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Jeep Playground gets overhaul for this year’s festival

Work is being done on the Jeep Playground for the 13th annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted photo

Frequent visitors to Butler’s Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival should expect a few changes when they encounter the Jeep Playground section of Cooper’s Lake Campground when the festival kicks off Friday, June 7.

The Jeep playground has been given a major face-lift for this year’s festival, with new challenges and a revamped layout.

According to Rob Morgan, who took part in the planning process, the revamp was necessary because the original playground was getting on in years.

“It’s old. It just needed a change,” Morgan said. “A lot of our patrons come every year, and they don’t want to do the same thing every year. We want to try and create something new and fresh for them as often as we can.”

Like the previous playground, the new one will feature a “green” trail for stock Jeeps, and “black” and “blue” trails for modified Jeeps. The obstacles for each of these trails have been overhauled, and new ones have been added.

One major new addition is “The Valleys,” a set of 70-foot trenches on all three trails, which Jeep drivers must keep their tires away from.

“We’re going to have ridges where you actually ride on top of the dirt with a valley underneath you,” said Michael Dietrick, who made some of the designs for the playground overhaul project.

“It’s like a V-notch that you have to straddle with your tires on the high side, and underneath your tires are several feet of open space,” Morgan said. “Just to make it a little nerve-wracking.”

The green trail also will feature a teeter-totter and a “ramp travel index” ramp, which is commonly used in the motor industry to test a vehicle’s suspension. According to Dietrick, changes to the other two trails are in progress.

“For the black obstacle, we’re going to move some rocks around to change the lines,” Dietrick said. “The blue trail … I know we’re going to make a set of steps to get onto the obstacle, versus the one big step that we have right now.”

Morgan said work on the playground overhaul project began around October.

“It’s been in the works for a couple of years,” Morgan said. “We’ve been wanting to do more, but we finally got a plan together.”

“As time goes on, we’re going to add some other elements that are appropriate for each level of Jeep within the valleys,” Morgan said.

Dietrick says the project is not quite finished, and everyone working on it is a volunteer. Most of the work on the playground overhaul has taken place on weekends. Dietrick, who lives in Avonmore, Westmoreland County, drives more than two hours to Cooper’s Lake Campground on workdays.

“It’s really hard to work during the week because we have to coordinate with Cooper’s Lake. The park has to give us permission to be in there to do work,” Dietrick said. “We have every weekend scheduled between now and Bantam for workdays.”

Access to the playground is $60 for all three days of the festival. The playground is strictly BYOJ — bring your own Jeep.

Sketch of “The Valleys,” a feature of the newly-upgraded playground at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival at Cooper’s Lake Campground, opening on Friday, June 7. Submitted image
A comparison of the newly-upgraded playground and the previous design at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted image
Work is being done on the Jeep Playground for the 13th annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted photo
Work is being done on the Jeep Playground for the 13th annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted photo
Work is being done on the Jeep Playground for the 13th annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted photo
Work is being done on the Jeep Playground for the 13th annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted photo
This sketch shows changes in the Jeep Playground at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which is Friday to Sunday, June 7 to 9, at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Submitted image

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