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Community rallies to rebuild Oakdale Children’s Play Park

Randy Reece, left, and Nick Birchall place boards on new walkways during the rebuilding of the Children’s Play Park by volunteers in Oakdale on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.
Randy Reece, left, and Nick Birchall place boards on new walkways during the rebuilding of the Children’s Play Park by volunteers in Oakdale on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. jwestberg@modbee.com

The question of what Oakdale residents would do if they had a hammer was answered definitively this past week.

Several hundred volunteers came out to help rebuild and refurbish the Oakdale Children’s Play Park, part of a community-funded project to rejuvenate the once popular site near downtown Oakdale. Built in 1993, the wooden play area in Dorada Park is the largest children’s park in the city. But over the years, it began to fall into disrepair and areas had to be cordoned off for safety.

In May of this year, a committee of about 15 to 20 community members and city officials was formed to start working on plans for the park. The group has met each week since then to organize the large-scale effort, which included replacing equipment, updating the facades, redoing the decking, painting the exterior and more. Work began Wednesday and carried into the weekend.

Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer acted as as the general coordinator of the project, which included help from several community service groups, area students and local residents. The city provided no cash funding for the project, though it provided staffing and planning help. The committee was able to raise its goal of $100,000 needed to fund the build for materials, labor, equipment and more.

“It has been a phenomenal community experience,” Whitemyer said. “When this was originally built it was an extremely popular park, but over time its use had fallen off. Now this is going to be a spectacular park once again.”

Some of the old wood was swapped out for more durable recycled plastic materials, eliminating the potential for splinters and other natural wear. The faded wood towers have been given fresh, vibrant coats of paint. Those who helped relished the idea of creating something lasting for the community.

Oakdale High School senior Oscar Casillas remembers coming to the play park a lot as a youngster. He came to pitch in with members of the S Club.

“It has been fun, and now I get to tell my kids when I’m older how I helped to build this park,” said the 17-year-old.

Students such as Casillas were joined by a large number of volunteers from Oakdale service clubs such as the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, Soroptimist and Women’s Club. Area businesses gave in-kind donations, and citizens dropped off tools and other equipment as well.

Oakdale Lions Club President Ron DeLong said his group has provided more than 700 lunches and dinners to volunteers, who have worked from the morning until past dark each evening on the project.

“I’m hoping all the people who used to frequent the park come back and bring their children,” DeLong said. “My hope is that this park is full every day, all day.”

Once completed, the park will include new slides, climbing areas, monkey bars and bridges. Young volunteer Kayleigh Worden, an Oakdale eighth-grader, saw information about the project at the Oakdale Farmers Market earlier in the week. She came by herself both Saturday and Sunday to do whatever she could.

“I went to this park as a child and watched it fall apart,” said the 13-year-old. “So I said, why not come help.”

Whitemyer said the committee had hoped to finish up the work over the weekend. But they found more structural damage than expected once the teardown began. So work should be completed in the next couple of weeks by contractors or city staff, with a public ribbon-cutting to be held afterward.

While the hammer-and-nails volunteer work is now done, organizers said people can still donate to help with auxiliary future projects in Dorada Park, including a renovation of its aging restrooms and some picnic tables.

For more information, go to www.oakdaleplaypark.com or call 209-840-6780.

Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland

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